CDEC Releases Plans for UPK Colorado Quality Standards Development

Hide Featured Image

Thursday, April 6, 2023
Hope Shuler |

CDEC Releases Plans for UPK Colorado Quality Standards Development
Providers expected to maintain current quality and licensing practices in 2023-24

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Early Childhood (CDEC) today announced the details surrounding the implementation of quality standards for year one of Universal Preschool (UPK) Colorado, as well as the three phases to create quality standards and aligned supports beyond the inaugural year. During the first year of UPK Colorado in the 2023-24 school year, preschool providers are expected to maintain current quality and licensing practices. CDEC is developing quality standards to begin in Year 2 of the UPK Colorado program.

“CDEC acknowledges that quality work is already being implemented by providers and by the Department and wants to honor that and set an expectation for it to continue. Examples include standards previously set forth by the Colorado Preschool Program and currently upheld through Colorado child care licensing, Office of Head Start, and Colorado Shines. Therefore, CDEC has created this ‘keep doing what you’re doing’ guidance, with an effective date of July 1, 2023, to alleviate the concern of the unknown for providers already enrolled in the UPK program and allow them to focus on preparing their classrooms for this fall,” said Dawn Odean, UPK Director.

The development of UPK Colorado quality standards is broken into three phases:

  • Phase I - Research, review and stakeholdering for UPK Quality Standards Rule
  • Phase II - Cross-department standards, professional learning credentials and pathways
  • Phase III - Resource library, pathways, reporting plan

Phase I work is underway, as CDEC is working with an expert in aligning national quality standards to lead standards landscape analysis, develop and analyze a stakeholder survey, and host stakeholder interviews to understand the priorities for the development of the UPK quality standards from a variety of perspectives.

CDEC is also working with local coordinating organizations (LCOs) to conduct family, provider and educator focus groups, working with an evaluation and research expert to recommend UPK quality standards that are measurable for evaluation research, conducting a landscape analysis of Colorado and national quality standards, and reviewing the stakeholder-informed Universal Preschool Program recommendations that were unanimously approved by the ECLC in fall 2022.

The final UPK Colorado quality standards will be developed by early summer and will move on to the rulemaking process. The rule will then be promulgated during the fall of 2023 and will go into effect for the 2024-25 school year.

During Phase II, CDEC will create cross-department standards, professional learning credentials and pathways. Once complete, CDEC will have a set of standards that are community and nationally-informed to ensure children, families and the early childhood workforce can thrive. Phase II is expected to take approximately 12 months and will be completed by the spring of 2024.

Phase III includes the development of a resource library that aligns with the UPK quality standards that will support differentiated pathways for professional development and tools that are relevant across a mixed delivery model. CDEC intends to leverage the existing $39 million in Capacity Building Grants to support providers with one-time costs associated with attaining UPK quality standards.

Phase III will begin this summer and will continue over the next year, with a targeted completion in summer of 2024.


The Colorado Department of Early Childhood ensures the delivery of a comprehensive, community-informed, data-driven, high-quality and equitable early childhood system that supports the care, education and well-being of all Colorado’s young children, their families and early childhood professionals in all settings.