The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Departments) announced today that 16 states and the District of Columbia submitted applications for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), a $280 million state-level competitive grant program to improve early learning and development. Applicants included: Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
In August, the Obama Administration released the final application for the second RTT-ELC competition, which provides grants at the state level to improve the quality of early learning and development programs and close educational gaps for children with high needs. The program also supports states' efforts to design and implement an integrated system of high-quality early learning and development programs and services.
The Departments conducted the first RTT-ELC competition under the Race to the Top program in FY 2011 and awarded grants to nine states: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington state. In FY 2012, the next five highest-rated state applicants from the FY 2011 competition received funding: Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon and Wisconsin. As a result of this investment, these states are building a more unified approach to supporting young children and their families. They are improving access to high-quality early learning and development programs and helping to ensure that more children enter kindergarten with the skills, knowledge and outlook toward learning they need to be successful in school and in life. The Departments continue to work closely together on new initiatives to improve and expand services for children from birth through age 5. The President's 2014 budget request includes a historic new investment in early learning that will build upon RTT-ELC to ensure that all children have the opportunity for a strong start in life.
The RTT-ELC competition focuses on five key areas of reform:
- Establishing Successful State Systems by building on the state's existing strengths, ambitiously moving forward the state's early learning and development agenda and carefully coordinating programs across agencies to ensure consistency and sustainability beyond the grant;
- Defining High-Quality, Accountable Programs by creating a common tiered quality rating and improvement system that is used across the state to evaluate and improve program performance and to inform families about program quality;
- Promoting Early Learning and Development Outcomes for Children to develop common standards within the state and assessments that measure child outcomes, address behavioral and health needs, as well as inform, engage and support families;
- Supporting A Great Early Childhood Education Workforce by providing professional development, career advancement opportunities, appropriate compensation and a common set of standards for workforce knowledge and competencies; and
- Measuring Outcomes and Progress so that data can be used to inform early learning instruction and services and to assess whether children are entering kindergarten ready to succeed in elementary school.
Grant awards will last for four years and range from $37.5 million up to $75 million, depending on the state's share of the national population of children ages birth through five-years-old from low-income families and their proposed plans. Current grantees are not eligible to apply in the FY 2013 competition. The Departments will announce winners in December.
To view the application and learn more about the RTT-ELC program, visit http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-earlylearningchallenge.