Absolute Priorities

For FY 2012 and any subsequent year in which the Department makes awards from any list of unfunded applicants resulting from this competition, the Department will consider only applications that, consistent with 34 CFR 75.105(c)(3), meet Absolute Priority 1 and one of Absolute Priorities 2-5 described below. Each of the Absolute Priorities 2-5 constitutes its own funding category, and the Secretary intends to award grants under each category for which applications of sufficient quality are submitted. An applicant must address Absolute Priority 1 and identify which one of the Absolute Priorities 2 -5 contained in this document applies to the LEA or Consortium of LEAs. Full applications will be peer reviewed and scored; scores will be rank ordered within each category. These Absolute Priorities are:

Absolute Priority 1, Personalized Learning Environment(s): To meet this priority, the LEA or consortium's application must coherently and comprehensively address how it will build on the four core educational assurance areas (as defined in this document) in Race to the Top to create student centered learning environment(s) that are designed to: significantly improve teaching and learning through the personalization of strategies, tools, and supports for teachers and students that are aligned with college- and career-ready standards (as defined in this document); increase the effectiveness of educators, and expand student access to the most effective educators in order to raise student achievement; decrease the achievement gap across student groups; and increase the rates at which students graduate from high school prepared for college and careers.

Absolute Priority 2, LEAs in Race to the Top States: An LEA or a consortium of LEAs where more than 50 percent of participating students (as defined in this document) are in LEAs in States that received awards under the Race to the Top Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3 competitions.

Absolute Priority 3, Rural LEAs in Race to the Top States: An LEA or a consortium of LEAs where more than 50 percent of participating students are in rural LEAs (as defined in the document) in States that received awards under the Race to the Top Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3 competitions.

Absolute Priority 4, LEAs in non-Race to the Top States: An LEA or a consortium of LEAs where more than 50 percent of participating students are in LEAs in States that did not receive awards under the Race to the Top Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3 competitions.

Absolute Priority 5, Rural LEAs in non-Race to the Top States: An LEA or a consortium of LEAs where more than 50 percent of participating students are in rural LEAs (as defined in the document) in States that did not receive awards under the Race to the Top Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3 competitions.

Comments

There is no way that $400 million should be allocated to districts for reform – to reduce the achievement gap, strengthen student performance, and increase graduation rates, without also including an early learning proposal.

Early learning should not be ignored or left to chance.

· Early learning should be a key component.

· Early learning should be worth priority points.

Please place additional emphasize on both on early learning (with its inherent multiplier effect) and practical life skills for high school age students. Good books have stimulating early chapters and meaningful endings.

ABSOLUTE PRIORITY 1: Personalized Learning Environments -- College- and Career-Ready Standards; Teacher Effectiveness

College- and Career-Ready Standards:
NAEYC is pleased that the Department is emphasizing the importance of individualization of teaching and learning. Under this Absolute Priority, the local educational agency must show how it will build on the four core educational assurances such as personalization of strategies for teachers and students aligned to college and career ready standards. The definition of “college- and career-ready standards” is essentially the Common Core in English language arts and mathematics. There are no other domains of standards that are “common” in the same way among states. In the early grades, children remain on a path of development that requires attention and support to their emotional, social and physical development and to their creativity, curiosity and tenacity (approaches to learning). A large number of research studies have linked emotional competence to both enhanced cognitive performance and academic achievement. A number of factors in the emotional and social domain, such as independence, responsibility, self-regulation, and cooperation, predict how well children make the transition to school and how they fare in the early grades. Similarly, the National Research Council Report, Early Childhood Assessment: Why, What, and How?, notes that: “…A parallel effort to raise the attention of practitioners in the K-12 arena to the importance of social/emotional development and approaches to learning not only would improve the learning environment for elementary children, it would create a better environment to address alignment issues.”

Less than a handful of states have standards in Kindergarten, first, second and third grade in the areas of social development, emotional development, and approaches to learning, whether they have adopted the Common Core or have their own English language arts and mathematics standards. All states, however, have created early learning standards or guidelines across all domains for preschool-age children and many states have aligned those standards from infancy forward.

Recommendation: For the purposes of educational achievement and optimal development for children in third grade and younger, Absolute Priority 1 should require districts and schools to use a comprehensive curriculum that addresses not only the Common Core standards, but also the other important domains of social and emotional development, physical development, and approaches to learning, as well as other cognitive domains. For children younger than kindergarten, districts and schools should align curricula and instructional assessments to the state’s early learning standards/guidelines.

--

Teacher Effectiveness:
Absolute Priority 1 also requires districts to show how they will increase the effectiveness of educators and expand student access to the most effective educators.

Recommendation: In order to meet this aspect of Priority 1, the applicant should be required to state how it will ensure that teachers with specialized early childhood licenses, endorsements or credentials will be assigned to the the grades and programs for children ages birth through age eight.

NAEYC is an articulate voice for young children. Early Learning must be an absolute priority. It is the foundation upon which all those other priorites stand. This is where the largest investment should really be made if we look at what research demonstrates and what our common sense dictates as well. Early Childhood as a Priority?! Absolutely !

It is incredible to me that this funding will NOT include any provision for Early Childhood Education!
If you want a healthy well-developed plant, you nurture the seedling so it develops into a healthy mature specimen.
The same holds true for our children.
It's way past time to take early childhood education seriously!!

An early learning component is essential to the success of our schools, and more importantly our children.
With limited resources and talk of accountability, a research-based, quality early learning component should be a priority for any school district applying for this grant.

After 30 years of educational reform, there is one fundamental truth that has never been acknowledged -- that education starts before school. As such, the achievement gap begins before school as well. To invest any money in education without integrating, at least, 4 year olds is only perpetuating the same old strategy which obviously is not working. In fact, investing in children ages 0-5 is your best bet for improving educational outcomes for children.

The research is clear: achievement gaps can be seen in children's language development as early as 18 months. Harvard Center for the Developing Child has pages and pages of hard science in brain research showing the differences in the number of neural connections between children who have positive early childhood experience as opposed to negative ones. Kindergarten teachers can many times tell you the quality and type of early childhood experiences their students had within the first week of starting school. If the Department wants to tackle the achievement gap, it is an absolutely priority to have EARLY LEARNING (ages 0-5) as a component of this grant.

There is no way that $400 million should be allocated to districts for reform – to reduce the achievement gap, strengthen student performance, and increase graduation rates, without also including an early learning proposal.

A key component is missing in an effort to reduce the achievement gap, strengthen student performance, and increase graduation rates, without including early learning. How are we going to assure children will be ready to learn without quality EC experiences before they walk into the "public classroom?"

I encourage you to include an early learning component to this grant. So many studies have determined the importance of starting education early especially in the areas where children are at the highest risk. I encourage you to re-evaluate your criteria and require school districts to set aside a specific portion of the grant to help early childhood programs in their area.

Let’s get serious about the future of the USA. In order for our country to continue to move forward we need to seriously work on reducing the achievement gap. Not just say we are, but actually do it! This means we need to focus on our children from the early, early years. This is the time when we have the best chance at preparing our children for true success. Let’s give them a real chance to succeed. Early Care and Education needs to be part of this grant, no question about it.

No doubt that early literacy should be priority. This component is crucial for any academic achievements.

A house built on sand is destined to fall... Unless early childhood is addressed as a part of this grant, it will never be as successful as it could be. The role of early educational child care, whether provided by a parent or a professional, is to teach children how to learn by giving them a thirst for knowledge and a sense of wonder. This is the foundation for all future learning.

Of course you can sometimes fit a square peg into a round hole with enough force, however, if that square peg is first shaped into a round peg, it will fit much better and be much more useful to the overall design.

For the strength and success of our education system PLEASE include an early childhood component!

Early learning should always be included in anything that has to do with education. Early childhood lays a foundation down for the rest of your life. If children are experiencing gaps in learning by the time they get to kindergarten, they will struggle throughout their school career. This is not just academically.Early childhood is so great, in that it is not solely focused on academics, but gives children the tools to succeed in a social environment, also. The skills learned in early learning will last a lifetime.

Please don't forget that early learning is the basis for all later learning as evidenced with much research! Monies should be set aside for early learning as well!

I am deeply disappointed that there is no early childhood requirement to this grant. How many studies must be completed before people start understanding the importance of starting education early especially in the areas where children are at the highest risk. I encourage you to re-evaluate your criteria and require school districts to set aside a specific portion of the grant to help early childhood programs in their area.

I support Joanne's comment. There should be an early childhood requirement in the grant.

I had a chance to attend the webinar, and was encouraged that family childcare providers would be a component of this grant. So often family childcare is overlooked. Family childcare providers are a vital part of educating our children!

As a component of Absolute Priority 1, partnerships with early learning, including community-based child care and Head Start programs (not just state-funded pre-k programs in schools), should be required.

Early Childhood Education builds the foundation for the rest of a child's learning. This time period of physical and cognitive development must not be left out of any educational plans that hope to build a stronger outcome for students in later academic years.
Suggest adding priority points for:
Strengthen Early Learning Settings and Transitions into Kindergarten
Strengthen the district's commitment to quality child care
Strengthen training of the child care workforce
Strengthen parent engagement efforts
Strengthen health and safety child care linkages
Strengthen Efforts to address children with special needs
Strengthen data integration efforts

On behalf of Teaching Strategies, I am writing to express support for the Race to the Top District competition. I would like to recommend, however, that the application directly address early learning. For example, a district could receive priority points if it includes an early learning component in its application. We believe that plans to reduce the achievement gap, improve student performance, and increase high school graduation rates must take into account early learning to ensure that children are prepared to succeed in school. Research has shown that a child’s first five years of life form a critical foundation for future success, so we strongly urge you consider including an early learning component in addition to Priority 1 or to award priority points for Districts who choose to address early learning in their application.

Sincerely,
Jonah Stuart
Director, Public Policy & Government Relations
Teaching Strategies, LLC

In regard to Priority 5:An LEA or a consortium of LEAs where more than 50 percent of participating students are in rural LEAs (as defined in the document) in States that did not receive awards under the Race to the Top Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3 competitions.
The districts which are interested in applying for this grant are rural and will form a consortium in order to meet the 2500 student criteria. However, priority 5 punishes rural districts in states that are not Race to the Top States. These should be given a higher priority than the others as the states that are RTTT already have received funding. This truly eliminates these districts from the competition and unduly punishes them for their state's short comings. In fact the rural districts I mention average 50 -82% economically disadvantaged and 35-40% ethnic populations. They are in heavily economically impacted areas and they deserve a fighting chance at the grant funding.

On behalf of Child Care Aware of America (formerly the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, NACCRRA), I am writing to express strong support for the Race to the Top District competition. However, we believe that any application, in addition to addressing Priority 1, should also include an early learning component. Alternatively, an early learning component should yield priority points if included in a District’s application.

Vision: Any vision to reduce the achievement gap, improve student performance and increase high school graduation rates, must also integrate community-wide early learning component to ensure that children are on the right path before school entry.

Priority Points:

Priority points should be awarded for an early learning component to any RTT district application that includes a community partnership plan to:

Strengthen Early Learning Settings and Transition to Kindergarten. Any Race to the Top proposal should include investments to strengthen early learning in the community. In some districts, this may involve pre-kindergarten programs. However, children are not born at 4 years old and much of the gap in knowledge and school readiness begins much earlier. District applications should show partnerships with early learning providers in the community to strengthen the settings children are in before school entry and to transition to kindergarten in a seamless and productive manner. Head Start and school pre-k programs need to coordinate wrap-around child care so that more working parents are able to enroll their children.

Strengthen the District’s Commitment to Quality Child Care: Child care plays a critical role in the health, safety, and development of children but in too many districts, child care runs parallel (as if in a separate silo) to district early learning initiatives (primarily part-day preschool). Families with young children struggle with part-day pre-kindergarten programs. Some make it work. Some cannot make part-day preschool programs work and select full-day child care centers or family child care homes. Districts should partner with the early childhood community to show a commitment to strengthening child care programs whose children feed into their schools so that the children of working parents are not left behind in a community’s school readiness strategy.

Strengthen Training of the Child Care Workforce: Training of child care providers in both centers and in family child care homes is critical to strengthening early learning for children and to provide a quality setting. Not just training, but technical assistance must be provided to promote quality settings -- particularly for infants and toddlers and preschool-age children whose working parents can’t swing the part-day hours of many pre-kindergarten programs.

Strengthen Parent Engagement Efforts: Any early learning component must focus on engaging and supporting families. Studies have shown that parent involvement is crucial in the development of children and that parent-provider communication is linked to the quality of care provided. Nothing is more important to a child’s progress than parents who are engaged and knowledgeable about their child’s needs in order to support their early learning and development. Parents, as consumers, need information and support so that they are partners in any district school readiness initiative. Parents cannot make informed decisions if they do not have access to information and if they lack an understanding about how to assess the information that they obtain.

Strengthen Health and Safety Child Care Linkages: Any early learning component of a district reform plan should focus on identifying and addressing the health, behavioral, and developmental needs of high-need children to support school readiness. Children cannot grow and learn if they are not in healthy and safe environments. Health and behavioral screenings are important factors in a child’s school readiness and future school success. Early intervention can prevent school failure, reduce the need for special education services, and boost a child’s confidence (that in itself is a marker for future achievement). The promotion of children’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development is crucial to a child’s future success and early childhood educators must be trained to support and help meet these needs.

Strengthen Efforts to Address Children with Special Needs: There needs to be greater coordination with IDEA part C, and earlier recognition of developmental delays and disabilities. Child Find is a stealth program. It shouldn’t be. More outreach among parents needs to be done so that children are screened and more child care providers need to be trained to work with parents so that children are identified early – not in pre-k or in kindergarten.

Strengthen Data Integration Efforts: Children receiving subsidies need to be tracked; the professional development of providers needs to be tracked. Metrics are important for accountability and with any significant award of new dollars, accountability should be built in. Districts should know the quality of settings children are in, not just how many children in the district receive a subsidy to pay for their child care.

Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies are embedded in communities promoting quality child care. With so many connections between parents, providers, community and state leaders, CCR&Rs should be a partner in any district award to promote early learning.

We urge that you give every consideration possible to either requiring an early learning component with the above criteria in RTT district applications or award priority points for applications including the above criteria.

Ollie M. Smith
Interim Executive Director
Child Care Aware of America (formerly NACCRRA)

It’s great that the Department of Education is going to allocate $400 million to districts for school reform – to reduce the achievement gap, strengthen student performance, and increase the high school graduation rate. However, each district plan ought to include early learning – not just pre-kindergarten programs, but child care programs – where the majority of children with working parents spend their days. As long as child care remains in a separate silo, we can’t make real progress on school readiness. And, school readiness is the key to school performance.

I strongly agree with the suggestions from Child Care Aware - It is critical to the overall success of the intent of the Race to the Top funding that a strong, substantial foundation is lain by including birth to five in the priorities. Unless children are prepared to learn before they enter elementary school, they will not succeed: without a stong foundation, everything above it is weakened; the whole building is unstable.

any application should also include an early learning component in addition to priority I. At a minimum, an early learning component should yield priority points if included in a District’s application.

Absolute Priority 3, Rural LEAs in Race to the Top States: An LEA or a consortium of LEAs where more than 50 percent of participating students are in rural LEAs (as defined in the document) in States that received awards under the Race to the Top Phase 1, Phase 2, or Phase 3 competitions.

THANK You for finally recognizing that not all low performing schools nor all at risk students are living in the big urban ceters. Those schools have resources available to them in their communities, we in small rural areas have very few or none at all. We appreciate this being an absolute priority and being ranked as high as #3. Again, Thank you.

Regarding the Absolute Priority I and the four core educational assurrances, it is unclear with the language, as written, whether LEAs that do NOT have a low performing school (in the bottom 10% in reading, math, and/or graduation rate) are ineligible to apply to RTT-DL. For clarification, if LEAs without a persistently lowest performing school or low performing school, as defined, cannot apply it should say so explicitly, and if they are eligible to apply there should be guidance on how to address that in the narrative. For example, would a statement that none of the LEA's schools are low-performing satisfy that core assurance?

personalized learning environments must include the parents

The description of the learning environment that the LEA is asked to create in Priority 1 is the type of learning environment that results from the implementation of universal design for learning (UDL) principles. The National Down Syndrome Society recommends that this Priority include a reference to UDL to provide LEAs with a framework for creating these student centered environments.

An example of how UDL could be incorporated in the wording of the priority:
".....to create student centered learning environments(s) that are designed, consistent with the principles of universal design for learning, to:......."

Notice of Language Assistance: English  |  español  |  中文: 繁體版  |  Việt-ngữ  |  한국어  |  Tagalog  |  Русский