Today the Obama Administration released the final application for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), which will provide $500 million in State-level competitive grants to improve early learning and development programs.
The goal of the RTT-ELC is to better prepare more children with high needs for kindergarten because children from birth to age 5, including those from low-income families, need a strong foundation for success in school and beyond.
Robust research shows that high-quality early learning programs improve children's health, social-emotional development, cognitive ability, and school success. High-quality programs also help close the wide school readiness gap that exists between children with high needs and their peers. Yet, the U.S. lacks a coordinated system for improving and evaluating early learning and development programs as well as sharing best practices across programs and States.
"Investing in the health and educational development of our youngest children is critical to ensuring America's long-term strength and competitiveness," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "With this Early Learning Challenge, we are spurring innovation in the early education field and putting more children on a path to learning, opportunity and lifelong success."
RTT-ELC will set a high bar and reward States with the strongest plans to improve the quality of early learning and development programs. In their applications, States must demonstrate a commitment to building coordinated systems, aligning resources and policies, and increasing access to high-quality early learning and development programs for children who need them most.
RTT-ELC will focus 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.
"The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge will reward States that are leading the way in improving quality and coordination among their early learning and development programs, and as a result, better serving children and families," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "This fund will leverage best practices and pave the way to reinventing early education in the United States."
Grant awards will range from around $50 million up to $100 million, depending on State population and proposed plans. Applications are due on October 19 and the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services will announce winners in December.
To view the application and learn more about the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, visit http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-earlylearningchallenge.