The Obama Administration published today proposed competition criteria for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, and invited public input through 5 p.m. EDT on Monday July, 11 2011.
The proposal outlines draft requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions in accordance with the program's purposeto improve the quality of early childhood programs and close the kindergarten readiness gap for high-need children. Proposed criteria ask applicants to build successful state systems, promote early learning and development outcomes, implement high quality, accountable programs, and support a great early childhood education workforce.
"To produce the highest-percentage of college-educated people in the world, we need to improve the quality of education early on, because learning begins at birth," said Special Assistant to the President for Education in the White House Domestic Policy Council Roberto Rodriguez. "The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge not only proposes to increase access to successful early learning programs, but also addresses the vast inequities in the quality of these programs, so we can raise the bar for all our early learning students."
As proposed, awards will support statewide comprehensive plans to coordinate and elevate early learning and development programs with award sizes ranging from $50 to $100 million, depending on state population. To better serve the needs of rural communities, the administration may exercise discretion in choosing the winners to ensure that states with bold comprehensive reform plans that also serve large rural populations are well represented.
"The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge can transform the quality of early learning programs across the country," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "The proposed criteria aim to establish a comprehensive approach that better coordinates, implements and evaluates high quality early learning and development programs with a focus on giving families the information they need to select the best program for their child."
States will be encouraged to transition early learning programs to high quality levels focused on producing successful outcomes for all children. Strong applicants would illustrate a strategy to increase access to quality programs for high-need children, as well as engage families and invest in improving, supporting and developing their early childhood education workforce. Under the proposed requirements, grantees will be expected to track children's development and publicly document effective practices and successful programs to help parents make informed decisions.
The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge will be administered jointly by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. The program is a significant component in the Obama Administration's broader efforts to expand access to, and raise the quality of, our nation's education system.
"Meeting the needs of our youngest children so they are healthy and learning is critical to our nation's competitiveness," said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "This public comment period will provide us with vital input from states and communities, from child, family and education experts, and from teachers and program directors. Together, we can work to improve standards, promote health, engage and support families, and provide children with the building blocks for success."
Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius announced the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge in May. During the announcement, Duncan and Sebelius were joined by business, law enforcement and military leaders who advocate for increased investments in early learning to reduce crime, strengthen national security and boost U.S. competitiveness.
The public may provide input, including data and relevant research, on the draft criteria by visiting http://www.ed.gov/early-learning/elc-draft-summary. Public input will be jointly reviewed by the two Departments and will be taken into consideration as requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions for the new competition are finalized. The final application will be available in late summer and grants will be awarded to states no later than December 31, 2011.