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Program Requirements


Every classroom in which children receive CPP funding must have a valid child care center license from the Office of Early Childhood at the Department of Human Services (C.R.S. 22-28-108 (1)(a)). This license indicates the minimum health and safety standards have been followed. Child care centers serving CPP include the following types of facilities: large child care center, small child care center, preschool, full-day, and part-day programs (12 CCR 2509-8 (7.702.1) (B)). “The term shall not include any facility licensed as a family child care home, a foster care home, or a specialized group facility that is licensed to provide care for three or more children” (C.R.S. 26-6-102 (5)). If a school changes the location of its CPP, the new classroom space must also be licensed. If a school decides to open a preschool with the hopes of serving state-funded preschoolers, please be sure to submit your license number with the school code request. The Division of Child Care has staff available to work with you throughout this process at 1-800-799-5876 or 303-866-5948.

Preschool programs providing full-day preschool programs (e.g. children are in attendance for more than five hours) need to have a “Child Care” license type. The “Preschool” license type is allowed for programs where children are in attendance for five hours or less per day. 

The requirement for child care licensing by the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) does not exclude early childhood programs located on tribal lands from participating in CPP. Tribal lands are sovereign nations and follow child care licensing rules as determined by their local tribal government.

School District Monitoring

CDHS and CDE worked collaboratively with school district representatives to simplify the licensing process and identify areas where onsite monitoring by CDHS licensing staff could be expedited.

As a result, school districts have the opportunity to submit district-wide documentation to CDHS regarding compliance with specific health and safety requirements in order to streamline the individual site inspection process conducted by licensing. School districts may apply by submitting the documentation outlined in the attached form, verifying that the school district maintains standards for the operation of the facility in compliance with the standards required by CDHS licensing rules, to the appropriate CDHS licensing supervisor. View the School District Monitoring Submission Guide

View the list of Licensing Supervisors and the Metro Area School District Licensing Contacts that includes contact information and the geographic area they supervise. CDHS licensing supervisors will review the documentation you provide. Once reviewed and accepted as evidence of compliance with the specific health and safety standards outlined, they will update the CDHS licensing tracking system showing approval. This approval will remain in place as long as the school district continues to supply the required documentation annually. View the School District and Licensing Monitoring Document.

What Is A High-Quality Program?

According to the U.S. Department of Education, a high-quality early childhood program provides a safe and nurturing environment while promoting the physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development of young children. High-quality early learning programs are crucial for helping children prepare for kindergarten and success later in school. Colorado Shines, the state Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) is a rating system in which quality early learning programs are determined. Colorado Shines rates basic health and safety at levels 1 and 2 of licensing. Levels 3-5 in Colorado Shines ratings indicate that a program has achieved a high-quality environment. 

Additionally, the state expectation for all classrooms funded by CPP/ECARE is that these classrooms are inclusive, meaning that children are not segregated by funding or perceived ability but instead are in classrooms that are as diverse as possible.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Data Center identifies Essential Indicators of Quality Preschool. They include:

  • Positive relationships between teachers and children
  • Sufficient materials and toys
  • Communication - mutual listening, talking and responding, encouragement to use reasoning and problem-solving
  • Daily opportunities for art, music & movement, science, math, block play, sand & water, and dramatic play
  • Materials and activities that promote diversity
  • Engaged families
  • Group sizes are small and ratios are low
  • Teachers and staff are qualified and compensated accordingly
  • All staff are supervised and evaluated and have opportunities for professional growth

While CDE does not endorse specific curricula, we do encourage districts to implement a research-based, developmentally appropriate curriculum to close the achievement gap that may already exist when children with significant family risk factors begin preschool. Any curriculum choices should follow national standards and the Colorado Quality Standards.   

Note: One way programs demonstrate quality is the Early Childhood Quality Walk-Through Form. The CDE preschool team staff developed the walk-through for classrooms serving children funded by CPP/ECARE. The tool was developed initially as a quality measure in Kindergarten and is not meant as a substitute for measuring quality using other processes or data sources. The CDE-developed tool may still be used as a transition into Colorado Shines or a nationally accepted standard for quality. CDE does not support the use of this tool as the only measure of quality in preschool. The walkthrough, if used, should be used as a body of evidence but nationally accepted tools or Colorado Shines should be used to demonstrate quality in preschool classrooms.

Staff Qualifications

Preschool teachers are not required to hold a CDE educator license (C.R.S. 22-29-208 (3)). However, preschool staff members who serve children funded by CPP must meet the Colorado Department of Human Services requirements for center-based staff or minimum qualifications established by tribal government licensing for early childhood programs located on tribal lands.  In addition, the CPP Act requires that “teachers must be able to show that they have received education credits in the field of early childhood.” This can be done through a portfolio that demonstrates knowledge in:

  • Early childhood development;
  • Applying developmentally appropriate practice in the classroom as defined by the National Association for the Education of Young Children;
  • Knowledge of cultural competence;
  • Understanding family partnerships.

The CPP rules further indicate that if the teacher cannot demonstrate skills in the above areas, they must be supervised by someone who can, and they must be making progress in the areas of need as part of their staff development (2228-R 6.06.07 C.C.R). Early childhood programs participating in the Colorado Preschool Program must also demonstrate the capacity to deliver high-quality developmentally appropriate services as defined by the Colorado Quality Standards for Early Childhood Care and Education Services. 

An important goal in the Quality Standards is that programs are staffed by adults who understand child development and who recognize and provide for children’s needs. The Quality Standards in Section D states that: 

  • Staff who are in charge of a group of children should have at least a Child Care Professional Credential, Child Development Associate Credential (CDA), or an associate degree in Early Childhood Education/Child Development.
  • In cases where staff members do not meet the specified qualifications, a training plan and timeline, both individualized and program-wide, has been developed and is being implemented for those staff members. 
  • An early childhood educator is employed to direct the educational program of children birth through eight. The qualifications of an early childhood educator are a baccalaureate degree in Early Childhood Education (ECE)/Child Development (CD) and at least three years of full-time teaching experience with young children, and/or a graduate degree in ECE/CD. This individual may be the classroom teacher, early childhood coordinator, building principal, or center director.  Please see the resource links below for more information.

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Class Size

Preschool classrooms serving children eligible for CPP must limit class size to a maximum of 16 children with an adult-child ratio of one to eight (C.R.S. 22-18-208 1.b.ii). An adult can be a paraprofessional, a parent, a speech/language therapist, a senior citizen, or another appropriate adult figure (2228-R 6.04(I)). There are no waivers to override group size or ratio limits for CPP except when required by public health guidelines and safety measures. In 2020, the State Board of Education approved a rule change to 2228-R 6.04(I)(a). When programs are required to limit class sizes to ten children in accordance with public health guidelines and safety measures, the adult child ratio may be increased to one to ten.

One of the primary determinants of quality in early childhood programs is the quality of interactions between children and adults.  This is particularly true when the program focuses on children whose early life experiences place them at risk for challenges in school and beyond.  Responsive teaching and caregiving are only possible when staff members have sufficient time to interact meaningfully with each child in their care and to plan and carry out high-quality learning opportunities.  When numbers are too high, adults are stretched too thin to be responsive to the individual needs of the children in their care. A maximum group size of 16 must be maintained at all times, including when children are outside.

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Service Hour Requirement

The CPP Act requires 360 contact hours a year or approximately 10 hours per week (2254-R-2.06). Classes are to be held for four half days, or the equivalent per week. The fifth half-day or equivalent should be used for home visits, staff development, or planning. (22-28-108 C.R.S.)  It is not appropriate to have children attend a single day per week for an extended-day schedule of 10 hours or more in order to meet the contact hour requirement for CPP. Children need downtime to process new information between new learning experiences.  They need opportunities to practice following predictable daily routines and to continue to play schemes across multiple days. A more appropriate schedule would provide for 2 ½ to 3 hours of programming four days per week – Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday. Offering a 3 ½ hour program on Monday, Wednesday and Friday would also offer young children consistency in their early learning program.  

The CPP Act allows school districts to apply to CDE for authorization to serve a single child in preschool using two CPP half-day positions to fund a full-day program. The statute specifies that only 5% of the preschool children in CPP statewide may be funded in this way. As a result, there is a formal process for these requests and rounds of award in the spring and early fall. Full-day preschool opportunities should be reserved for those children who are most at risk for future academic failure.

Districts should use their CPP resources to serve as many eligible children as possible and ensure that the use of combined positions for children is limited to those with the highest needs and no other opportunity for full-day programming.  This option should not be seen as a solution for the lack of district supported transportation for preschoolers or a way to fill unused CPP positions. 

The requirements when combining positions to create a full-day include:

  • A minimum of 720 preschool contact hours must be provided per school year for an average of 20 hours per week
  • An appropriate full-day schedule that includes lunch, rest time, additional choice time (at least 30% of the day), and outdoor time.
  • Combining positions or CPP and Special Education to create a full-day, should be reserved for children with the highest needs.
  • Teachers must receive the required planning time, which is an average of five hours per week.
  • The full-day opportunity must be provided in the same program – the full-day position may not be split between two programs or to serve a child in two part-day programs (2254-R-5.10 (2)(a)). 

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Staff Planning Time

In each school district, the funding levels for CPP preschool are one-half of what is provided for a child in grades kindergarten through twelfth grades.  While the preschool program must offer teacher-pupil contact time at a minimum of 360 hours per year, half-day kindergarten must operate a minimum of 450 hours per year. The 90-hour difference in the program requirements is to enable preschool teachers to attend staff training, provide home visits, assess children, and do child planning based on those assessments. (C.C.R. 2254‐R‐1 2.06; C.R.S. 22‐28‐108 (1)(b)(III)). 

These requirements are also spelled out in State Board Rule 2228-R 6.04-Frequency of contact. Classes are to be held for four half days per week or the equivalent. The remaining one-half day is to be used for home visits, staff development, or planning. Funded non-pupil contact time was written into law to ensure that teachers have the time necessary to implement a quality program. Additionally, the requirement that children funded by CPP and early childhood special education be assessed for child outcomes reporting requires specific time for planning and teaming related to the data collection and use of data which adds a time burden on preschool teachers (SB 08-212).

Scheduling routine non-pupil planning time for preschool teachers is challenging. However, it is a necessary component of a high-quality preschool program, as well as required compliance with the CPP statute. The challenge of providing preschool teachers with adequate planning time increases when school districts transition to a four day school week. Finding planning time can also be challenging when preschools offer full-day programming, five days a week. CPP District Advisory Councils and school district administration must work together to strategize solutions to meet this planning time requirement for both district and community partner programs.

Programs that receive CPP funding are required to keep a ratio of one adult for every eight children (2228-R 6.04). Each adult in the classroom is considered a teacher and has an impact on children’s learning and development.  As such, it is recommended that teaching teams have funded non-pupil time together to support the needs of children in the classroom. Rest time does not count as funded non-pupil time, since some children may not sleep and must still be supervised by an adult in the classroom.  Since teachers also need time and space to sanitize the classroom furnishings and materials, rotate classroom materials and set up the environment for learning on an ongoing, weekly basis, funded non-pupil time is the only solution to provide the basic foundations for high-quality preschool programming.

Preschool teachers have many responsibilities that increase their need for planning time beyond that of other teachers. Preschool teachers are often the CPP Coordinator and childcare director for their program and must follow and implement Colorado Child Care Licensing requirements, including handling enrollment documentation, meeting annual training requirements for health and safety, and supervision of assistant teaching staff.  Preschool teachers are also required to receive 15 hours of training in early childhood education annually. 

Preschool programs that receive CPP funding also have additional requirements beyond the 360 hours of per-pupil contact time. The CPP Act requires that programs address quality, staff development, family involvement, and family support services. Funded non-pupil time supports the staff’s ability to implement all elements of a high-quality preschool program.

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Individual Learning Plans

Children enrolled in state-funded preschool are expected to have an Individual Learning Plan (ILP) that is informed by ongoing assessment of developmental and academic progress as well as input from families.  The ILP sets desired outcomes or next steps for the child, specific strategies, or supports that the child may need and may also include transition strategies for children who will be moving on to kindergarten.  

ILPs should be created through a collaboration between teachers (general education and when appropriate, special education), families, and caregivers. Learning plans should address the preschool standards, as appropriate, and the knowledge and skill areas in which a student needs assistance to make progress. Automated ILP forms are included in the Results Matter assessment systems to help streamline this requirement and assure that the plan is connected to assessment results. 

Please note, it is not recommended that goals for the ILP be simply chosen from a list of Results Matter assessment objectives as it is important to customize the plan to each child’s strengths and needs. It is better to develop the goals first, and then align them to the assessment objectives as appropriate. 

The ILP requirement is set out in two different state laws:

  • The CPP statute requires that an individual teaching plan is developed for each child (22-28-108 (1) (b) (IV) C.R.S. and C.C.R.6.04). The plan shall include identification of the child’s needs in the following areas: 
    • language 
    • cognition 
    • gross motor 
    • fine motor 
    • social skills/self-esteem
  • The more recent Colorado Achievement Plan for Kids (Senate Bill 212 CAP4K) requires that each child in a publicly funded preschool and kindergarten program have an Individual School Readiness (ISR) plan that is informed by ongoing assessment of a child’s progress in developmental and academic domains.  The Individual School Readiness plan is the same as an ILP.

For more information on the ILP template in GOLD®, see the GOLD® Appendix in the Results Matter Handbook

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Child Progress Monitoring

Child progress monitoring occurs through required participation in the Results Matter program’s ongoing assessment tools, GOLD® by Teaching Strategies, or the COR Advantage by HighScope.  Full implementation of a Results Matter assessment tool meets multiple CPP requirements:

  • Meets the requirement for multi-domain ongoing assessment to inform individual learning plans required by the CPP Act and CAP4K
  • Helps inform individualized instructional planning
  • Provides aggregate data to inform the annual CPP Legislative Report provided for in C.R.S. 22-28-112. which authorizes CDE to request from districts the information and data necessary to report to the Legislature the results of the CPP program
  • Informs program evaluation and continuous improvement efforts

The data obtained through Results Matter is used to describe the child's progress and school readiness across specific developmental and academic domains including Social-Emotional, Language, Literacy, Math, Science, Creative Arts, Physical Development, and Approaches to Learning. 


The Quality Standards (Section E-15) identify transition plans as an important part of quality services.  The process of transitioning to a new classroom or program should be planned based on the individual needs of each child. The planning should begin at least six to nine months prior to the placement of the child in the new setting and should involve families as well as the current and future teaching teams.  Written transition plans are expected to be embedded in the Individual Learning Plan.


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Suspensions and Expulsions

When young children are suspended or expelled, they miss out on learning experiences that are important to help them prepare for success in kindergarten and beyond. They also miss out on the opportunity to address their behavioral or developmental challenges. When children are suspended or expelled, the result is often that the children most in need of services don’t receive them.

In May of 2019, HB 19-1194 was signed into law. This law, C.R.S. 22-33-106.1, limits the suspensions and expulsions of children in grades preschool through second grade and requires districts to report on any children in these grades who are removed from class, suspended or expelled, and the incident that led to the disciplinary action.


  • HB19-1194 FAQ - In response to this law and data collection requirements, this FAQ was developed to provide guidance on meeting these requirements for preschool programs that serve children with state funds.

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