Today the Obama Administration released the final application for the second Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) competition, which will provide approximately $280 million in state-level competitive grants 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 U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (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. In FY 2012, the next five highest-rated states 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 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.
By investing in high-quality early childhood education we are able to close achievement gaps, provide life-transforming opportunities for children, and strengthen and build a thriving middle class," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "Creating an environment for children to begin school on a level playing field allows us to reap the benefits of increased graduation rates, increased employment, better jobs at higher salaries, greater tax revenue, lower crime and decreased reliance on public assistance."
"Our goal is to expand high-quality early learning opportunities so every child in America can enter school ready to learn and succeed," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius. "In addition to higher test scores and graduation rates, the long-term results will be stronger families, safer communities and a more competitive economy."
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.
In response to public comments, the Departments have made some language changes to the competition and included a request for data on participation of children to be disaggregated by race and ethnicity. New competitive priorities have been added to allow states to describe strategies for addressing the unique needs of rural populations in their states and to create preschool through third grade approaches to sustain early learning outcomes.
Grant awards will 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. A Technical Assistance Webinar for state applicants will be held on September 4, 2013. Additionally, a Technical Assistance Planning Workshop for state applicants will be held on September 10, 2013 in Washington, DC with a live streaming broadcast via the internet. Invitations for both events will be made available through state governors offices at a later date. Applications are due on October 16, 2013, and the Departments will announce winners in December.