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Colorado Shines Quality Improvement Resource Guide


This guide is designed to help child care home/centers, preschools, and other early learning programs navigate the Colorado Shines Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS).

Creating this resource guide is vital for our community. By providing clear, step-by-step instructions and comprehensive information about Colorado Shines, we empower local child care home/centers and early learning programs to improve their quality and achieve higher ratings. This, in turn, benefits our entire community by ensuring that more children have access to high-quality early care and education.​

This resource guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of applying for and participating in Colorado Shines, helping you understand its benefits and how to maximize them for your program. Whether you are new to the system or looking to improve your current rating, this guide is here to support you every step of the way.

CSQI Information

What is Colorado Shines?

Colorado Shines is a quality rating and improvement system for all of Colorado’s licensed early learning programs serving children birth to 5. It encourages and supports programs to improve their quality and to connect with families looking for quality care for their children.

The Colorado Shines Quality Rating and Improvement System honors those programs that choose accreditation for meeting their quality goals. Colorado Shines works directly with accrediting bodies that submit an application for crosswalk recognition.

How does it work?

Colorado Shines is flexible and customizable. Programs can apply to be evaluated for quality ratings and receive support regardless of educational philosophy and can improve quality at a pace that works for each program.​

Early learning programs are rated through Colorado Shines on a scale of one to five, one qualifying as a basic program, and five qualifying as an exceptional program:

  • Level 1: Your program is currently licensed with the State of Colorado.

  • Level 2: Your program is licensed, in good standing, and:

    • Has a quality improvement plan in place

    • Has finished the L2 Quality Indicator Program Assessment

    • Has registered staff in the Colorado Shines Professional Development Information System (PDIS)

    • Has completed the required number of E-Learning course hours for Level 2

  • Levels 3-5: Your program is licensed, in good standing, and:

    • Has completed all of requirements listed in Level 2

    • Has been assessed and rated by a Colorado Shines Quality Ratings Assessor

Online tools to help you get started

  • Professional Development Information System (PDIS): The PDIS supports your staff on their professional development path by offering e-learning courses, a variety of early childhood credentials, a Competencies Self-Assessment and an Individualized Professional Development Plan. ​

Visit the Colorado Shines program resources and FAQ pages to find additional information to guide you through the process.

Colorado Shines Funding

CSQI Funding: Coaching & Quality Improvement Only​​​

  • As long as funding is available, programs are eligible for a one-time award each fiscal year

  • Quality Improvement funding is allocated in coaching hours. Coaching hours can be converted into QI dollars upon council approval

  • Coaches will work with you on the best way to support your program and improve quality to meet state grant requirements.

Quality Improvement

Allowable QI Expenses

  • Approved, allowable quality improvement materials

  • Professional Development Expenses


  • Actively participate in coaching w/your QI coach

  • Improve the program,’s overall quality and Colorado Shines rating

  • Implement coaching recommendations to achieve QI goals

Capital Improvement Funding

  • If your program meets the eligibility criteria below, you may qualify for capital improvement funding 

  • Programs interested in applying should set up a preliminary meeting with First Impressions to discuss your project idea and details about the process. 

Capital Improvement 

  • Licensed to serve children under 30 months 

  • Approved TSQI MOU

  • Active CCAP Fiscal Agreement

  • Have an eligible project

  • Did not receive CSQI Capital funds last year



  • Expansion of I/T slots

  • Enhancing quality experiences in I/T setting

Apply for Colorado Shines

Applying for Colorado Shines Funding

  • The purpose of this document is to support eligible Early Learning Programs/Providers in applying for the Colorado Shines Quality Improvement Funding.   

  • ESQI includes Programs Level 1-5 that serve families with High Needs and seek or maintain a higher quality rating.

  • TSQI is for Programs Level 1-5 that have a CCCAP Fiscal in place and seek or maintain a higher quality rating. 

  • Programs with a CCCAP fiscal Agreement will be directed to the TSQI Application and Programs without the CCCAP Fiscal Agreement will be directed to the ESQI Application.  


**PLEASE NOTE: You are only eligible to apply for EITHER ESQI OR TSQI (not Both).  The system will guide you through the Application you are eligible for.  (If you already have an Accepted Application for one Funding Stream you will not be able to apply for the other).


Deadline to apply: February 21, 2025

Deadline to spend the funding: May 31, 2025

Deadline to submit all information in Salesforce: June 13, 2025

Applying for QI Funds in Provider Hub

  • Step 1: The program will start by navigating to the Provider Hub, then accessing the Colorado Shines QRIS Portal.

  • Step 2:  Once the QRIS Portal has been opened, the user will access the QI Funds Application by selecting the ‘Apply for QI Funds’.

**Please Note: If the program user currently has a L2, L3-L5, or alternative application in progress they will receive a message that says, “Please complete your application that is in progress first”.**

  • Step 3) Upon selecting the button, the user will be navigated to a section labeled ‘QI Funds’. The user will have the option to start a new application or continue an application (if they currently have one in progress).

** Please note: If your program has a CCCAP fiscal agreement, you will be directed to the TSQI version of the QI Funds Application.  If your Program does not have a CCCAP fiscal agreement, you will be directed to the ESQI version of the QI Funds Application.

** Please note: If you already have an application that is in progress, a message will be generated notifying the Program that they need to complete their application that is in progress first

  • Step 4) If your program is starting a new QI Funds Application, you will first have to read the ‘QI Funds Application Acknowledgement’ statement. Once you have read the statement, they are required to select ‘Acknowledge’ to proceed.

**Please Note: After the provider reads the ‘QI Funds Application Acknowledgement’ statement and closes the popup, an additional pop up labeled ‘Need Assistance with your Application?’ will generate. The popup includes general information that the program user can utilize if any problems arise with the application process. This popup will generate each time the program user opens the application. 

  • Step 5) Once the ‘Need assistance with your application?’ popup is closed, the program will be presented with the QI Funds Application. For the below user, there is an additional section labeled ‘TSQI’ as the program has additional information to submit because they have a CCCAP fiscal agreement. The user can exit and save the application by selecting the ‘Save & Exit’ button. Follow the instruction on this document to complete the elements of the application: Quality Improvement Funding Final.pdf

  • Step 6) Once all sections have been completed, the user should navigate to the ‘Application Summary’ to review and submit their application.

  • Step 7) Once the program user selects ‘Submit & Apply’, they will be presented with a popup showing the respective council’s logo, as well as additional information if they would like to contact members of the council. The submission of the application will generate an email notifying the grant lead at your Council that your application is ready for

How to Create/Update QIP Goals?

  1. Log in to your QRIS portal

  2. Once a request form has opened, program users can select ‘Click Here’ in the statement, “Click Here to add an additional QIP Goal Category or edit your current QIP Goals.”

  3. After the ‘Click Here’ link is selected, the user will be directed to the ‘BUILD MY QIP’ page where they can edit their QIP goal categories and subcategories.

  4. Feel free to Mark any previous goals, you are no longer working on, as “Completed”.

Spending QI Dollars

Spending QI Dollars

The Council uses Approved Vendors who meet the state’s high standards.

What are the benefits for using Approved Vendors?

  • Using the Marketplace Vendors is quick and simple

  • Free shipping and discounted prices

  • No out-of-pocket costs to you (except in rare circumstances)

  • Great warranties (5 years for materials and limited lifetime for furniture)

  • Commercial grade materials meant for the childcare industry

  • You get the opportunity to buy first-class, high-quality materials that will last

  • All materials meet state and federal standards

  • Developmentally appropriate materials

  • The Council processes all paperwork

  • We are a liaison between the vendors and programs

Placing a QI Request with an Approved Vendor

Provider Hub Login (


  • Once a program has an application that has been approved, program users can create spending requests. To open a new spending request for TSQI/ESQI QI Requests, users start by selecting ‘Access QI Funds’ from the home screen of the QRIS Portal. Upon selecting this button, the user will be navigated to the ‘QIP FUNDS’ page. From that page, users will have the ability to open new requests.​​​​​

  • Step 1- To begin a marketplace vendor request, users will begin by selecting ‘Access QI Funds’ from the ‘QIP FUNDS’ page in the QRIS Portal.

  • Step 2-The program user will begin by selecting a ‘QIP Goal Category’. Only active QIP Goal Categories connected to the program’s account will be available to select from.

  • Step 3- Next, the user will select a ‘Payable to’ type. To create a marketplace vendor request, the user must select ‘Direct to Approved Vendor’ as the type.

  • Step 4-After selecting ‘Direct to Approved Vendor’, a field labeled ‘Select Vendors’ will be available to populate. The vendor type has been included so that the user can easily select a marketplace vendor. Once a marketplace vendor has been selected, the user can use the ‘Go to External Vendor’ button to navigate to the vendor website and select supplies.

  • Step 5- After selecting items and adding them to the cart, the user will navigate back to the QI Request form. Once back in the form, the selected items will show up as spending details on the form and discounts/shipping will automatically be applied.

  • Step 6- The user will complete additional fields and then submit.

Congratulations!! **Your Early Childhood Council will be in touch with you regarding your Request and any further information needed or changes to be made.


Once your QI Request is approved and placed

  • You should receive an email with the orders details

  • Once the vendor has shipped the order, Pamela will e-mail you a detailed invoice.

LAST STEP! Verify Receipt of Materials:

  • Make sure all your materials are accounted for, verifying the packing slips with the detailed invoice.

  • Simply respond to the email verifying receipt of all materials


Reimbursements are often the last step of spending down remaining QI dollars. After the February 23, 2025. QI deadline, any remaining funds can still be utilized but the program will have to purchase allowable materials or submit for PD expenses through the reimbursement process.


The process and paperwork needed will vary depending on the specific circumstances. Due to the complexity and individual nature of reimbursements, you will need to work directly with Pamela for deadlines, information needed and next steps.


Expenditures that are paid through reimbursement:

  • Capital Improvement projects

  • Professional Development expenses

  • Materials purchased after final QI Spending deadline


  • ALL reimbursements need Council pre-approval

  • Reimbursements cannot be processed until all documents are received.

  • It takes approximately 6-8 weeks to receive a reimbursement due to the state billing process.

  • All reimbursement documents should be email to Pamela Nebel:

Professional Development

Allowable Professional Development Expenses - Includes costs associated with training/course work needed to support QI. Allowable costs include: tuition, books and associated fees as well as substitute costs, mental health consultants, child care health consultants or other coaching support needed.


All PD is processed as a reimbursement after successful completion.

* Programs should earmark funds in ecConnect before the deadlines below to reserve the funds.

  • Summer/Fall Semester Expenses: January 31, 2025

  • Spring Semester Expenses: May 30, 2025

Coaching Services

Coaching Services

The purpose of CSQI coaching involves actively working with a CSQI coach. Your coach will help support your program and your QI goals to maximize spending impacts and act as a local resource to help improve overall quality and help you increase your Colorado Shines rating. 

Coaching is based on individual program needs. To ensure quality support, First Impressions and your coach work closely together

Important Note


First Impressions is happy to partner with any certified coach as selected by providers.  


For a list of coaches across the state, please reach out to to find a coach that will work for you.  First Impressions encourages providers to consider small and minority businesses, women’s business enterprises and direct quality improvement needs when selecting coaching.  First Impressions will not cover the cost of travel, per diem, or accommodations for coaching services.


To learn more about how to obtain a coaching credential click here.  Reach out to First Impressions to learn more about available funding if interested.


To be a featured coach in our resource guide, please contact

Local Coaches

Stephanie Martin



  • Certified in PreK and Infant and Toddler CLASS.

  • Certified in ITERS-3 and ECERS-3 and provide a mock rating highlighting strengths and missed opportunities. While is not certified in these tools, is up to date on the latest clarification notes.



  • Membership and Evaluation Director

  • Early Childhood Council Leadership Alliance (ECCLA)

Contact Information

(720) 741-2896

Lennae Jenkins



  • RBPD (relationship based professional development) coaching credential through PDIS

  • ECHO (early childhood health outdoors) coaching credential through the National Wildlife Federation

  • BA in ECE, and MA in ECSE (early childhood special education), and post graduate coursework in ABA (applied behavior analysis)

  • PreK/Preschool CLASS rater and do a CLASS training for teachers before they get a rating.


  • Behavior support, classroom management and individual behavior plans

  • PDIS support for teachers and directors

  • QRIS support before and during ratings for directors

  • Outdoor investigation and learning Inclusive and adaptive care

Contact Information

970-393-2771 (text or call)


Frequently Asked Questions

How do I convert Coaching hours to QI dollars: Complete transfer form and submit to Pamela, Click here to access the transfer form.


What expenses are allowable with QI dollars? High quality early childhood learning materials that benefit children directly and/or help increase your Colorado Shines rating. Professional Development Expenses - Go to spending QI dollars tab. Items not allowed under QI: consumables (ie: paper, paint, etc.), and Capital Improvement


I’m ready to spend my dollars, where do I start? Once you have completed the transfer form and met with your coach to develop QI goals in QRIS and have chosen materials, pick which approved vendor(s) you will use and follow the steps in the spending QI Dollars Tab


Do I need approval for the materials I purchase? Council approval is required for all QI spending. In some cases, we must secure special approval from the state.


What type of furniture is allowed? The state requires “commercial grade” furniture with a warranty; options are available through our approved vendor list.


How long does it take to receive my materials? Historically, it has taken 12 weeks or less. But due many variables in the COVID era we are seeing many delays. Please plan accordingly, allowing yourself plenty of time to receive your items. Two-way communication is necessary to ensure a smooth process.


What is a PO #? You will receive an automated confirmation email after your order is approved and it will reference your Purchase Order Number. KEEP THIS EMAIL FOR YOUR RECORDS!




  • Your order has NOT been officially placed with the vendor until the Council approves it and you receive the confirmation email. This may take up to 4 weeks depending on the current number of orders in the queue

  • Choose your items thoughtfully, as changing your order once it is placed may not be possible

  • Always use vendor’s ONLINE catalogs for current pricing

  • Create only ONE QI Request PER Vendor (ie: place your order with Lakeshore, then go back to the home page, and place a different order with the next vendor).

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