Clayton Early Learning

Highlights for ECE from the 2016 Colorado Legislature

Lauren Heintz

Posted by Lauren Heintz


Lauren Heintz

The Colorado legislative session has come to a close! After considering nearly 800 bills and resolutions these past few months, Colorado policymakers adjourned for the year on May 11th.  Clayton Early Learning tracked over a dozen bills related to our children, their caregivers, and the field of early childhood this legislative session, several of which passed into law:

  • HB16-1227: Exempts a CCCAP applicant who is a teen parent from the current prerequisite child support cooperation as a condition of receiving child care assistance. The bill also exempts an applicant who is a victim of domestic violence, a sexual offense, harassment, or stalking from child support cooperation requirements or from establishing good cause for not cooperating as a condition of receiving child care assistance. This bill would eliminate one of the key barriers for teen parents and domestic violence survivors seeking to access child care.
  • HB16-1242: This supplemental appropriation bill for the Colorado Department of Human Services includes a reassignment of funding to go to doubling the amount of Early Childhood Mental Health Intervention Specialists employed by the state from 17 to 34. This means more readily available help and resources to organizations like Clayton to support positive mental health of our children, families, and staff.
  • HB16-1423: Tightens statewide restrictions to protect student data privacy by adopting additional duties that the state board, department of education, school districts, boards of cooperative services, and charter schools must comply with to increase the transparency and security of the student personally identifiable information that the department and the education agencies collect and maintain.
  • HB16-1425: Specifies that a licensed child care center is not required to obtain immunization records for any child who enrolls and attends the center for up to 15 days or less in a 15-consecutive-day period. A center that accepts short-term enrollees can only do so only if it provides notification to all parents who have children in the center that the center allows short-term enrollees without obtaining proof of immunization.
  • SB16-22: Removes the 10-county limit in the “cliff effect” pilot program for CCCAP to allow additional counties to participate in the pilot program. The pilot program addresses the “cliff effect” that occurs when working parents receive a minor increase in their income that makes them ineligible for child care assistance, which is often not enough of an increase to cover child care costs completely. The pilot allows for a more gradual phase out of assistance to help families transition.
  • SB16-212: Aligns state law with changes in federal law related to the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). The state law would be modified to specify that a child receiving CCCAP supports continues to be eligible for those supports for an entire 12-month period before eligibility is redetermined, as long as the child's family income remains below 85% of the state median income for that family size, as required by federal law. This correction to state law would also support the CCCAP reforms that have been occurring since the passage of HB14-1317 in 2014 that Clayton Early Learning has played an active role in implementing.

Bills that Clayton Early Learning followed that did not pass includes:

  • HB16-1002: Re-enacts the repealed K-12 Parental Involvement Act which required employers to provide its employees up to 18 hours per academic year of unpaid leave from work to attend a child’s academic activities. This bill would expand both the types of activities that were permitted for the employee leave, such as parent teacher conferences, as well as expand the law to include parents of preschoolers.
  • HB16-1022: Increases the amount of funding school districts receive to more comprehensively fund full day kindergarten. According to this bill, if a school district does not currently provide a full-day kindergarten program during the 2016-17 year they must use these new funds to expand its kindergarten facilities. Funding for following school years are also written into the bill.
  • HB16-1045: In 2013, the general assembly created a child tax credit against state income taxes for a resident individual. But the credit, which is a percentage of the federal child tax credit based on the taxpayer's income, is only allowed after the United States congress enacts a version of the "Marketplace Fairness Act". This bill repeals the contingent start of the tax credit and instead allows the credit to be claimed for any income tax year beginning with the 2016 income tax year.
  • HB16-1050: Creates a task force to address the child care needs of low-income parents of young children as the parents seek to advance their education. The task force must identify and reduce, if possible, barriers to obtaining child care from the range of available federal, state, and private child care sources, determine whether the parents' child care needs can be met through existing sources, review and streamline the processes for providing child care for parents while they obtain education or training, communicate the availability of child care from public and private sources to parents who are seeking education or training, and recommend legislative changes.
  • HB16-1196: Creates the aspire to college Colorado pilot program in the department of human services to provide college savings accounts, as defined in the bill, to preschool-aged children served in an early childhood program. Within existing appropriations, the state department shall make an initial $50 contribution to a college savings account administered by CollegeInvest as part of the college savings program on behalf of an eligible child.
  • HB16-1338: Under current law, the early childhood leadership commission is scheduled to repeal on September 1, 2018. The bill extends the repeal date to September 1, 2020.

Just because the legislative session is over doesn’t mean that the policy process stops! Summer and fall are busy seasons for legislators, as they meet with their constituents, attend interim commissions, prepare for elections and begin to draft bills for the upcoming session.

If you have any questions about these bills or ways to be involved in the legislative process while policymakers are out of sessions, please contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist for Clayton Early leaning:


Clayton is Speaking Up for Kids!

Lauren Heintz

Posted by Lauren Heintz


Lauren Heintz

Every year, Clayton Early Learning, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and Children’s Hospital Colorado team up to host Speak Up for Kids, a complimentary event that provides an insider’s perspective of the policy making process including the training and support needed to speak up effectively on the issues that matter most to Colorado kids. Anyone who wants to learn how to be a voice for our state’s children are welcome to attend and this year we had a record breaking attendance of over 200 advocates and coaches!

Want to know what it’s like to participate in this annual event? Let’s hear from our guest blogger and Infant/Toddler Supervisor at Clayton Early Learning in Far North East Denver, Lydia McKinney.

"The first time I had the privilege to participate at Speak Up for Kids was three years ago.  I attended the meeting by myself.  I didn’t know anybody.  Of course, I was aware of who Children’s Hospital and Clayton Early Learning were, and I knew more about Children’s Campaign after I researched them.  That first day I went home with a pocket full of knowledge, an experience which opened the door to opportunities, and a goal to keep pursuing where my heart leads.

The following year I was invited to be an advocacy coach on behalf of Clayton Early Learning and this year I was a table captain.  An advocacy coach answers all the questions you have about your legislature, walks with you to the Capitol, and guides through the process of it.  A table captain initiates a conversation at the table where participants of all field attend.  Each time I attended the meeting I meet people, developed relationships, and connect with old friends.

A wide variety of people take time off from their busy work schedule to participate in the training, meet legislators, and reflect on their experience with fellow participants, advocacy coaches, or table captains.  It’s a day you meet people you thought would never have time for you because they are doing the important work of making policies.  The best part of meeting with policymakers is realizing you are the one they want to meet and listen to.  You are the most important advocate for our kids!

Now you may be thinking of yourself as your read this blog, “only people whose job it is can afford to advocate” or “they have lobbyists who advocate for causes”.  However, your role as an advocate didn’t start because you attended Speak Up for Kids, the event only re-enforced the need to follow your passion.  Let’s say you are a provider with a disabled child who you want to provide with the best care, but practically you cannot because there is no access to a playground that developmentally appropriate.  It’s your passion, so pick up your phone and call your city council man/woman, express your worries, ask for referrals, and make your mission public.  Advocacy is in all of us, we are all connect to children no matter what kind of jobs we have. Police officers, trash men/women, bus driver, city council women/ and men, the mayor, Senators and Representatives, the Governor – even you!"

Interested in learning more about Speak Up for Kids and other ways you can be an advocate for Colorado’s children? Contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist at Clayton Early Leaning, at 303-393-5623 or Also check out pictures from this year’s event at!


State Advocates Come Together for Early Education Policy

Lauren Heintz

Posted by Lauren Heintz


Lauren Heintz

Last week in Chicago, over 60 early childhood state advocates from 17 states gathered for the 2015 Policy Exchange meeting sponsored by the Ounce of Prevention Fund.  This annual meeting brings together state based advocates, national organizations, state government officials, researchers, academics and programmatic leaders to discuss the current early childhood policy challenges and opportunities in their states and learn from one another. Though each state is working in a different context of government, funding, and culture, commonalities can be found across the country in early childhood priority issues.

This year’s conference focused primarily on the reauthorization of the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which was passed by Congress in 2014. CCDBG is the main funding source for many states’ child care assistance programs, including Colorado’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP). In order for states to receive CCDBG funding, their state officials must submit a state plan that outlines how the funds will be used, who will be involved, and how the funded programs will be evaluated. The legislation that Congress passed last year made several changes to the requirements for state plans, including:

  • More of a focus on ensuring quality in child care programs and increased funding requirements for quality initiatives
  • Easier public access to information about child care, especially on consumer websites
  • Increased requirements for the health and safety of child care programs, including disaster preparedness plans
  • Increasing access for vulnerable populations to child care, with a particular focus on children with disabilities and homeless children
  • More supports for families receiving child care assistance, including a 12 month eligibility re-determination, allowing at least 3 months of assistance during a parent’s job search, and providing graduated phase out assistance to families that have increased their income

Other policy priorities that advocates from across the country discussed at the Policy Exchange included continuity of child care, mental health and social/emotional development, policy innovations in Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships, funding for early childhood, marketing and communications messaging, and alignment between early childhood and the K-12 system.

The Policy Exchange also gives a chance for states to highlight their successes from the past year. Some of the policy gains for early childhood from across the states included:

  • California’s legislature and governor reached a budget agreement that added 7,000 preschool slots and 6,800 child care slots in the state, totaling nearly $400 million in new investments
  • Louisiana passed legislation requiring the Department of Education to find funding sources to increase early childhood care and education by $80 million
  • The Education Committee in Maine requested the Maine’s Children’s Growth Council, Maine Children’s Alliance, the Ounce of Prevention Fund, and the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University to gather more detailed information on the social emotional development of children and develop appropriate policy recommendations for the legislature
  • Nebraska passed legislation which will allow a family to receive transitional child care assistance if an increase in family income puts them over the limits to receive assistance
  • Oklahoma’s legislature passed several bills to promote early learning and literacy for children through 3rd grade
  • The Washington Legislature is considering in special session the bipartisan Early Start Act to help parents find care and learning opportunities that are tailored for their children, enhance school readiness, and support providers to provide high-quality care that is culturally and linguistically responsive to the needs of young learners and their families

Image via Ounce of Prevention Fund website.


To find out more about the Ounce of Prevention Fund and the annual Policy Exchange, please visit




CCAP Increases Access to High Quality Care for Families

Lauren Heintz

Posted by Lauren Heintz


Lauren Heintz

CCAP Overview

For working families, having access to high quality child care is critically important to support parents as they look for jobs, advance their careers and education, and move toward financial stability. The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program provides assistance to these working families in our state so that a lack of quality child care does not prevent a family from achieving economic self-sufficiency. Funded through a mix of federal, state and local funds, as well as through some parent fees, CCCAP offers financial support for child care to families through country departments of social and human services with oversight from the Colorado Department of Human Services.

Steps in the Right Direction

During the 2014 state legislative session, several bills passed into law that enacted comprehensive reforms to CCCAP, including House Bill 14-1317 and Senate Bill 14-003. These changes aimed to improve CCCAP so that not only was it more accessible and helpful to the families that receive the assistance, but also to make CCCAP an easier program to interact with for the state department, counties, and providers that accept CCCAP recipients. Some of the major changes include:

  • Reducing parent co-payments for those at 100 percent of the federal poverty level
  • Broadening of activities for families to be eligible for CCCAP, including two years of postsecondary education and an extension of a job search period to 60 days
  • Streamlining the eligibility and redetermination processes
  • Mitigating the “cliff effect” , when families become ineligible for CCCAP due to an increase in income that does not cover the increased cost of child care, through county pilot programs
  • Allowing CCCAP children to get care outside of the exact hours of a parent’s work schedule to allow for greater flexibility
  • Tiered reimbursement for providers that accept CCCAP children based on quality ratings in the new state quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) Colorado Shines
  • A statewide market rate study to determine the cost of care by county as well as a statewide equal access study to identify the gaps and needs for child care

Want to Learn More?Catepillar_logo_final_new

To learn more about the history behind these changes, the specific reforms from HB14-1317 and SB14-003, and how to get involved with the implementation, tune in to the Buell Leaders podcast “From State Legislation to Local Action: the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program” at this link:


Speak Up for Kids: Advocacy in Action

Peter Blank

Posted by Peter Blank


Peter Blank

On March 18, Clayton Early Learning co-hosted the 4th annual Speak Up for Kids event at the Denver Art Museum and the State Capitol.  Together with the Colorado Children’s Campaign and Children’s Hospital Colorado, Clayton sponsored the event to prepare partners across the state to advocate for children and build confidence in engaging their legislators.  With great turnout and active participation, another successful Speak Up for Kids day is in the books!

The focus of the advocacy at Speak Up for Kids day this year was on supporting two generation strategies that promote self-sufficiency and student success. Specifically participants learned about House Bill 1194 and several funding bills for early learning that are currently being considered in the legislature. House Bill 1194 would authorize a $5 million state investment to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to continue an existing program that increases access to long acting reversible contraception as part of the CDPHE’s family planning efforts. This bi-partisan bill provides the opportunity to reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion in Colorado, support the health and education of women and children, and reduce reliance on government programs.

The investment bills that were discussed by the advocates and their state legislators focused on access to preschool, full-day kindergarten, and affordable child care which are some of our most cost-effective strategies to supporting children and families. Current legislation that was highlighted included:

  • House Bill 1024 which would add 3,000 new slots for part time or full time preschool under the Colorado Preschool Program
  • House Bill 1020 which would improve funding for full day kindergarten and help districts expand their kindergarten facilities if needed
  • The School Finance Act which could likely include the expansions for the Colorado Preschool Program and Full Day Kindergarten
  • The Long Bill, or the legislature’s appropriations bill, which could include line item funding for the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) including an increase to help with the implementation of the CCCAP revisions from last year

The legislation discussed during this year’s event is of great importance for all members of Clayton’s diverse family– from the policy advocates to parents and community members, to teachers and kids.  Sena Harjo, a community based Child Family Educator and two year member on the planning committee for Speak Up for Kids believes that the event “… gives parents and families an opportunity to speak up for kids and have their voices heard at the hill.”  She also thinks that “…it gives the parents a chance to see how policy trickles down from the capitol to affect their daily lives.”  Speak Up for Kids also offered a setting for Buell Early Childhood Leaders alumni and current cohort participants to come together to network, practice their advocacy roles, and even serve as advocacy coaches.  There were 17 registered Buell leaders for this year’s event!

Each one of these unique perspectives is not only evidence of the breadth of work at Clayton, but also highlights how many people are positively affected by the continued advocacy demonstrated at this year’s Speak Up for Kids event.

It is important to keep in mind that this advocacy work doesn’t end with the Speak Up for Kids event – there is more work to do!  All voices were welcomed at the event and everyone is encouraged to continue advocating for kids.

If you want to get involved and advocate on behalf of children in Colorado you can:

  • Call and email your legislators. Reach out and share your thoughts on this year’s legislation.  Everyone is welcome and encouraged to reach out and express their opinions with their legislators. Click here to find your legislators’ contact information.
  • Testify in a committee hearing. If you have a passion for a particular piece of legislation or issue, you can testify at a committee hearing. To testify you just need to show up at the specific committee hearing for each piece of legislation and sign up.   A calendar of the Senate committee hearings can be found here.  A calendar of House committee hearings can be found here.  More information on testifying at committee hearings can be found here.
  • Sign up for KidsFLash! KidsFlash is a weekly e-newsletter from the Colorado Children’s Campaign that offers helpful analysis and discussions on all things kids, including legislation and advocacy. You can sign up for KidsFlash here or by visiting the Colorado Children’s Campaign website.


On the Steps of the State Capitol [Image Source: Colorado Children's Campaign]

On the Steps of the State Capitol [Image Source: Colorado Children's Campaign]



Contact Lauren Heintz, Policy Specialist at Clayton Early Learning, for more information or assistance on getting involved in the advocacy process. Email: Phone: 303-393-5623.





An Exciting Partnership: Clayton Early Learning and the Denver Preschool Program

Peter Blank

Posted by Peter Blank


Peter Blank

As you may recall, the Denver Preschool Program (DPP) made the news this past election season, as voters were presented with a ballot initiative to slightly increase the Denver Preschool tax, which has funded the program since 2006.  The measure passed, with 55.28%[1] of voters choosing to have DPP continue providing high quality preschool for Denver families through 2026.

DPP encourages families to enroll their children in preschool by providing tuition credits to parents to offset the cost of preschool.  DPP also works to provide resources, such as professional development opportunities, and quality measures to participating preschool programs that serve Denver’s children.

What may not have been highlighted in the news, is Clayton Early Learning’s role in the assessment and evaluation of the Denver Preschool Program over the last six years.  The Clayton Early Learning Institute (Clayton) has collaborated with Augenblick, Palaich and Associates since the 2007-2008 program year to deliver high quality evaluation of the program, specifically related to the development of children enrolled in DPP.

In the second year of DPP’s existence (2008), Clayton developed an evaluation to look at how effective the program was in a variety of areas related to the development of participating children. This evaluation was designed to look at important questions about DPP such as, but not limited to, what extent participating children progress in their language, literacy, mathematics, and social-emotional development and to what extent enrolled children are prepared for kindergarten.  Having completed its seventh year of this evaluation, Clayton can now not only look at current participants in DPP, but past participants as well.  Clayton is able to compare past DPP participants to other students of the same grade level, providing important longitudinal data related to school readiness and school success, and how they relate to DPP.

The Research and Evaluation Team at Clayton randomly selects 200 families enrolled in DPP to participate in the study each year. Family participation is completely voluntary.  The team focuses on collecting data from two sources: child assessments and parent surveys.  The team uses standardized assessments that focus on math, pre-literacy, and language skills, and are able to deliver them in both English and Spanish.  The results of the evaluation are analyzed and compiled in a report that is then shared with the staff at the Denver Preschool Program.  These annual reports and data have helped highlight the success of DPP over the years.

This continued partnership with the Denver Preschool Program is just another example of how Clayton Early Learning is using its vast and varied talents to help shape the important field of Early Childhood Education right here in Denver.

For more information on the Denver Preschool Program you can visit their website at

For more information on the Clayton Early Learning Institute’s work with the DPP evaluation you can contact Caroline Ponce at or (303) 355-4411 x252.

[1]Denver (2014, November). Denver Election Results. Retrieved from City and County of Denver:




Childhood Obesity: What can WE do?

Becky Keigan

Posted by Becky Keigan


Becky Keigan

We’ve heard it, the newspapers are reporting it, states and the federal government are addressing it, our universities are studying it and we in the field of early care and education see it on a daily basis…  our preschoolers are getting heavier!

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “obesity now affects 17% of all children and adolescents in the United States - triple the rate from just one generation.” obesity-927 Obese and overweight children have increased incidence of risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, breathing problems, joint problems, fatty liver disease, and Type 2 diabetes. Obese and overweight children also have a greater risk of social and psychological problems including poor self-esteem and are more likely to become obese adults.  Sobering statistics for all of us who have been charged to ensure the health and welfare of all of the children in our care and in our communities!

As a Food Friends® Program Coordinator at Colorado State University since 2009, my work has focused on the research, development and implementation of a nutrition and movement program focused on establishing healthy eating and physical activity habits in preschoolers to prevent future weight gain.  The Food Friends program received an implementation grant in 2009 from The Colorado Health Foundation to take the research based program in to 950 preschool classrooms and 600 family child care homes.  In 2012 The Food Friends was awarded an additional $875,000 from The Colorado Health Foundation to implement a sustainability plan with all of the Food Friends participants. The grant was written based on my capstone project in the Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program where my Food Friends team and I were able identify the needs of the participants, write them in to the grant proposal and secure funding to help address those needs.  The Food Friends program is in 58 out of 64 counties with a current cumulative reach of 50,924 children and families.  This reach was made possible in part to the incredible networking with my Buell Early Childhood Leadership Program fellows.  A fabulous representation of how the Buell Network supports children and families throughout Colorado!

foodiesHere is a brief overview of how The Food Friends program is addressing childhood obesity preventionThe Food Friends: Fun With New Food is an evidence base social marketing campaign aimed at increasing children’s willingness to try new foods in an effort to enhance food choice, and hence dietary variety.  A physical activity companion program, The Food Friends: Get Movin’ with Mighty Moves® develops gross motor skills to improve the programs’ overall efforts to establish healthful habits that prevent childhood obesity early in life. Both programs have demonstrated significant behavior changes in preschool children and are published in the research literature.

In recognition of September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness month I would like to share The Food Friends 7 Simple Tips to Overcome Picky Eating and to Get Moving.  These simple tips can be incorporated in early care and education centers/homes and shared with families.

Fun with New Food:  7 Simple Tips to Overcome Picky Eating

  1. Make trying new foods fun
  2. Keep offering new foods
  3. Offer one new food at a time
  4. Be a good role model by eating new foods with the children
  5. Let children choose new foods
  6. Avoid forcing children to try new foods
  7. Teach children about new foods

Get Movin’ With Mighty Moves: 7 Simple Tips to Get Moving

  1. Let children explore with movement
  2. Make activity fun
  3. Be creative with activity
  4. Add activity into daily life
  5. Budget TV and screen time
  6. Engage children’s imagination
  7. Be a good role model by being active with children

I have learned so much in my work over the past four years and my passion has grown to ensure that our precious little children have the opportunity to be healthy as they grow and develop!  With that said, I want to emphasize it is we, the adults who are responsible for the health of our children!  It is our job… our job! We are the adults, they are the children.  We are the ones who are buying the food they eat and scheduling how/where they spend time.  We owe it to the children to provide healthy food and beverage choices… to give them opportunities to move their bodies… build those gross motor skills… allow for free, glorious play throughout the day… to have fun learning about food and what their bodies can do!   Join me in this critical cause, together we can join the national movement to address childhood obesity.

For more information on The Food Friends and/or program participation and healthy children please contact me, Becky Keigan at 970-491-3562 or by email


Ducks on Bikes and New Investments in Early Childhood

Posted by Molly Yost


Molly Yost

1duckonbikeState leaders in search of some light reading are picking-up Duck on a Bike and putting down the bills as Colorado’s 2013 legislative session comes to a close. This past week more than 70,000 copies of the children’s book made their way into the hands of youngsters across the state as part of One Book 4 Colorado – a collaborative initiative between the Lt. Governor’s Office, Serve Colorado, the Denver Preschool Program, Reach out and Read Colorado, public libraries, and the business and philanthropic community. This is just one of several efforts geared towards raising public awareness about the importance of early literacy and the impact high quality early childhood education has on future academic achievement. In tandem with the week’s events was the release of the Colorado Reads 2013: The Early Literacy Initiative report. This comprehensive blueprint outlines the state’s progress and a path forward to ensure more children are reading at grade level by third grade.

Capping-off the excitement were a number of landmark measures aimed at strengthening the state’s birth to eight policy agenda by increasing access, quality, and coordination of early childhood programs. Here are some of the highlights from the 2013 legislative session:

  • SB13-213: Dubbed “the Future School Finance Act,” this bill will modernize Colorado’s education financing system with an unprecedented focus on expanding access to high quality early childhood education, pending the passage of a statewide ballot initiative to approve requisite funding. The legislation would remove the cap of the number of slots available for the Colorado Preschool Program (current cap is 20,160 slots), allowing all at-risk 3- and 4-year olds to participate. In addition, the bill would increase access to full-day Kindergarten for families wishing to attend.
  • SB13-260: Funding will be provided to increase enrollment in the Colorado Preschool Program by 3,200 slots through the state’s 2013-2014 School Finance Act. Districts can also choose to use the money for full-day kindergarten. The original version of the bill included the Expanding Quality Incentive Program (EQUIP), which would have created a $5 million grant program to support school districts seeking quality ratings for their preschool programs and also to improve program quality. EQUIP was stripped from the bill on the Senate floor.
  • HB13-1117: “The Alignment of Early Childhood and Development Programs” strengthens Colorado’s newly-established Office of Early Childhood by moving additional early childhood programs from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment into the CDHS. Governor Hickenlooper and Executive Director of Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), Reggie Bicha, announced the creation of the Office of Early Childhood last summer. The office seeks to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of program delivery and administration by co-locating several early childhood programs within the CDHS. The legislation also reauthorized the Early Childhood Leadership Commission, Colorado’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council.
  • HB13-1291: This legislation creates the Colorado Infant and Toddler Quality and Availability Grant Program within CDHS. The $3 million grant program encourages local early childhood councils and county departments of human services to partner to increase the quality and availability of care for programs serving infants and toddlers through the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP).  The grant program offers local communities the flexibility to implement plans by providing quality ratings to non-rated participating classrooms, quality improvement grants, higher reimbursement rates to programs rated in the top two levels of Colorado’s quality rating and improvement system, and fostering parental involvement.

With the support of Governor Hickenlooper and Lt. Governor Garcia, early childhood education emerged as a top priority this session. This year’s budget reflects significant investments not only in ECE, but an increase of $4.5 million in state funding for Early Intervention Colorado and an $800,000 increase in the Nurse Home Visitor Program to expand direct services to six additional counties in northeast Colorado.  Spring seems to be blooming with good news for Colorado children and families!


Examining House Bill 13-1117 and its Journey through the Colorado General Assembly.

Posted by Molly Yost


Molly Yost

Policymaking occurs on several different levels – at the federal, state, and local level. What is policy and why does it matter to us? Policy is a course of action, selected from alternatives which guides and determines decisions and practices. Policy may refer to action of governments and of public and/or private organizations. This post will explore a significant piece of early childhood policy and the process by which it makes its way through the Colorado General Assembly.

“There are two things you don’t want to see being made – sausage and legislation.” Attributed to German Chancellor Otto von Bismark (1815-1898), this timeless comparison of sausage making and lawmaking has endured for centuries. John A. Straayer offered this description of our very own state legislature in his book, The Colorado General Assembly: a venue in which “a score of basketball games are progressing, all at one time, on the same floor, with games at different stages, with participants playing on several teams at once, switching at will, opposing each other in some instances and acting as teammates in others.” Casinos, marketplaces, and zoos are also metaphorical favorites when expounding the chaotic and awesome nature of legislatures.

All bills, in accordance with state statute, follow a common format. Bills are assigned a number, a title, and a sponsor. HB13-1117 indicates that the bill was the 117th bill introduced in the House (all House bills are numbered from 1001) in the year 2013. HB13-1117, sponsored by Representative Hamner and Senators Hodge and Newell, was introduced earlier in the session and assigned to the Public Health Care and Human Services Committee (committee of reference) by the Speaker of the House. This introduction is commonly known as the bill’s “first reading.” In Committee, the bill is presented by a sponsor and its details are carefully scrutinized. Research, testimony, and studies on the bills fiscal impact are reviewed and discussed by committee members. From here, committee members can amend the bill, refer it to another committee, postpone indefinitely (also known has “killing” a bill), or lay it over for consideration later in the legislative session.

400px-Visualization-of-How-a-Bill-Becomes-a-Law_Mike-WIRTHSo what are the ingredients in the bill? HB13-1117 has two major components. The first component of the bill is the transfer of several programs from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to the Department of Human Services in order to promote greater alignment and increase the efficiency of program administration, policies, and procedures to better serve children and families. As you may know, there are several different programs serving children and families spread across several different state agencies. The result is a very fragmented system that is often difficult for families to navigate. The following programs will be relocated from CDPHE to CDHS to enhance coordination and collaboration at the state and local level:

• the Nurse Home Visitation Program;
• the Tony Grampsas Youth Services Program including the Colorado Student Dropout Prevention and Intervention Program and the Colorado Before-and-After School Project;
• the Colorado Children's Trust Fund and its board; and
• the Family Resource Center Program.

The second component reauthorizes the Early Childhood Leadership Commission (Colorado’s Early Childhood State Advisory Council) until 2018 and relocates it from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office to the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) Division of Boards and Commissions. This commission, comprised of state agency representatives, business leaders, providers, and parents, will be responsible for making recommendations and advising further alignment of early childhood programs and funding streams.

After discussion and testimony, HB13-1117 was slightly amended (or altered) and successfully “passed out” of the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee. After making its way through the House, the bill was sent to the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services where it passed with bi-partisan support (6-1). Next stop: the Senate Appropriations Committee.

If you would like to read HB13-1117, view voting history, or find other information about the Colorado legislature, visit:

“How Our Laws Are Made” infographic by Mike Wirth and Dr. Suzanne Cooper-Guasco for Sunlight Foundation “Design for America Competition” 2010, sources: “How Our Laws Are Made” by John V. Sullivan (Rev. 6.24.07 and What is a Lobbyist? - wiseGEEK and Reconciliation in the Senate - Brookings Institution. See full-size image at, Learn more at:


Early Childhood Response to Intervention- Best Practices in an Emerging Field

Nathan Pope

Posted by Nathan Pope


Nathan Pope

Many readers may have heard of the concept Response to Intervention (RTI), but may not know what it looks like in practice, or that RTI can be applied to Pre-K settings.  This blog is an introduction to RTI, and the goal is for educators and administrators to recognize the need and value in implementing or expanding an effective RTI program in their preschools.  Future articles in this series will address what parents need to know about RTI, emerging RTI models, and effective interventions.


What is RTI?

RTI is a recognized evidence-based practice to improve educational outcomes for all children regardless of whether they are in general or special education.  In addition, federal and state accountability policies support the use of RTI in annual reporting of individual child progress (Head Start for School Readiness Act, 2007).  The RTI problem-solving model has been increasingly implemented in K-12 education since the late 1990s, and research suggests that an RTI approach can be beneficial in the years prior to kindergarten.

Why Do Schools Need RTI?

Many children enter preschool without having a strong foundation of language, early literacy, and socio-emotional regulation skills.  Do you have a child that is having trouble recognizing letters?  If so, implementing RTI could help children learn key skills.  Pre-K RTI provides an evidence-based practice for preventing or mitigating the occurrence of language, literacy, and academic learning difficulties or learning disabilities.  In schools where universal screening in key areas of academic and behavioral areas occurs, students who are falling behind are quickly identified and interventions are discussed, implemented, and monitored to see if the interventions help the student get back on a trajectory for success.

What does a RTI model look like?

RTI is a dynamic, multi-tier framework of support to provide differentiated instructional interventions for individual students based on their demonstrated need.  There is no universal model of RTI, but the common features of Pre-K RTI include:

  1. Providing all children research-based curriculum and instructional methods to reach the desired educational outcomes (Tier 1).
  2. Universal screening to identify children not learning as expected, and providing additional focused, intensive instruction and monitoring their progress more frequently (Tier 2).
  3. Providing additional support to students when Tier 2 instruction failed or who need even more intensive intervention (Tier 3).

At the state level, the Colorado RTI framework promotes high-quality research-based curriculum and interventions based on children’s academic and behavioral needs.

What can RTI look like at my Preschool?

Many preschools already have some of the components of RTI in place, but need to supplement their existing program and refine professional development in areas that need additional support.  For instance, if a preschool is already using a research-based core curriculum such as Teaching Strategies Gold, Tier 1 instruction will stay the same.  The universal screening measure will depend on what skills or behavior you want to evaluate.  Schools evaluating receptive vocabulary may want to use the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-4) or the Preschool Language Scale (PLS-5).  There are now several pre-k progress monitoring tools available for Tier 2 including the Early Communication Indicator (ECI) and the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS).  Tier 3 interventions include more frequent and intensive individualized interventions.  Under the 2004 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), children may be referred to see if they are a “child with a disability.”  RTI may not be used to delay or replace a full evaluation to determine if they are eligible for special education and related services.

Next Steps

Are you ready to implement or improve RTI practices at your preschool?  You can start by filling out a school-level RTI rubric.  Stay tuned for additional blogs on this critically important topic!

My Top 5 RTI Resources
  1. Colorado Department of Education RTI page:
  2. Colorado Response to Intervention: A Practitioner’s Guide to Implementation
  3. Roadmap to Pre-K RTI: Applying Response to Intervention in Preschool Settings
  4. The Response to Intervention (RTI) Approach in Early Childhood
  5. The RTI Action Network