02/09/2011 05:49 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Denver Preschool Program Provides Quality Early Childhood Education

Any parent knows that choosing a preschool (and paying for it) can be a daunting task. As parents, we want to ensure our children receive quality early childhood education so they can start their academic careers on the right track. Yet we face a number of challenges that can make it hard to find the perfect fit. "How will we pay for preschool?" "Which preschool is the right fit for our child?" "How do we know which preschools are the best?"

Luckily, Denver has a unique program that helps parents answer those questions. The Denver Preschool Program (DPP) is a public program that provides tuition credits to families of all income levels and improves the quality of preschool education in Denver. DPP collaborates with Qualistar Colorado, an organization dedicated to measuring and improving quality early childhood education, to rate preschool programs across the city, help programs improve quality, and help parents make informed decisions about early childhood education.

DPP is dedicated to tracking its progress and making sure each program is achieving the outcomes Denver citizens want for their children -- a cutting edge approach to proving that early childhood education is making a positive impact on our community. DPP recently released its annual evaluation report, which shows how important early childhood education is and confirms that DPP preschools are doing their job by preparing students for kindergarten.

Among the evaluation's highlights were:
• A majority of children enrolled in DPP leave the program academically, socially and emotionally ready for kindergarten.
• DPP children were shown to make progress in vocabulary, literacy and math during their preschool year, beyond what is expected based on normal development of children entering kindergarten.
• Teachers report significantly more positive behaviors and fewer behavioral concerns among DPP kids during the course of their year in a DPP program.
• Nearly a third of parents reported they would not have enrolled their children in preschool at all were it not for the availability of the DPP tuition credit.
• Close to 90% of parents reported DPP helped their children maintain continuous enrollment in preschool.
• 88% of DPP classrooms earned a 3- or 4-Star Qualistar Rating. 28% of DPP classrooms earned a 4-Star Rating, which is the highest possible Qualistar Rating.
• 85% of DPP students are enrolled in 3- and 4-Star quality programs.
• Almost 90% of preschool providers report that participation in DPP encouraged them to improve the quality of care they provide. Nearly one-third of preschools reported that DPP encouraged them to improve the program quality "to a great extent."
• This year, 127 classrooms at 74 DPP sites completed their second Qualistar Rating and 96% either improved or maintained their rating.

For more information about DPP's 2010 evaluation report and the Qualistar Rating, go to