Last month, six states heard great news from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont learned that they would receive a combined $281 million in grant awards from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) fund “to improve access to high-quality early learning and development programs throughout their states,” according to a press release.
“By investing in high-quality early learning through programs like Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, we are able to close achievement gaps, provide life-transforming opportunities for children, and strengthen and build a thriving middle class,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in the press release.
Duncan thanked “governors, state officials, and education advocates” for their leadership, adding, “This investment is a down payment to support and implement high-quality early learning programs across the country. There is still a lot more work for us to do.”
“This administration is committed to ensuring all children have a chance to succeed,” Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in the press release. “An investment in our children is an investment in our nation’s future.”
These six states “join the 14 existing state grantees who secured funding in the first two rounds, which began in 2011.” Previous state grantees are:
2011 grantees: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington.
2012 grantees: Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
The grant applications of all the states that applied in this round, including the six awardees, are available here along with comments from reviewers and score sheets.
Below is a sampling of comments from grant application reviewers. Grant awards are provided by state – note that awards cover a four-year grant period.
Georgia ($52 million)
A reviewer cited Georgia’s continuing investment in its pre-K program even during the Recession, including investments in “professional development; serving children with high needs; funding services for children with disabilities; and, serving children in the state’s subsidy program.”
Kentucky ($44 million)
Faced with $2 billion in budget cuts, Kentucky also protected funding for early education. Among Kentucky’s strengths is a plan to increase the number of high-quality early education programs. The state also says it will improve outcomes by enrolling more high-needs children in high-quality programs and screen them for kindergarten readiness.
Michigan ($52 million)
“Michigan has shown tremendous community support for their grant. They have included letters of support from 92 organizations who are potential stakeholders ranging from community groups to educators and institutions of higher learning,” a reviewer wrote.
Michigan has also built a broad base of administrative support that includes the state Departments of Education, Human Services, and Community Health as well as the Early Childhood Investment Corporation. “These are all members of the proposed grant governance team.”
New Jersey ($44 million)
“The state has made significant progress in key areas over the past several years in creating and supporting a high quality early learning and development system,” according to a reviewer.
Specifically the state has laid the groundwork for a Tiered Quality Rating Improvement System (TQRIS). New Jersey has also adopted “two sets of early learning and development standards: one covering children age birth to three and one for three- and four-years-old. “The infant-toddler standards were just launched in August 2013. The preschool standards were adopted in 2004.”
Pennsylvania ($52 million)
A reviewer wrote that Pennsylvania has “an excellent system for aligning and coordinating work across the State. The State has established an Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) that serves as the lead agency and oversees all the state agencies.”
Pennsylvania was also cited for its workforce development efforts, including “a comprehensive common statewide progression of credentials and degrees aligned with the Workforce Knowledge and Competency Framework,” which tracks progress through “a Career Lattice.”
Vermont ($37 million)
Vermont has a high quality plan for “creating preschool through grade three approaches to sustain early learning outcomes,” a reviewer wrote.
In addition, “The state will implement the Early Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) which is an evidence based comprehensive approach for addressing the behavioral and developmental needs of young children from birth through grade three.”