Department of Education Announces Proposed Requirements for Race to the Top-Early Learning Grants

Secretary Duncan announces $500 million investment in early learning

The Obama Administration recently published proposed competition criteria for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge.

The proposal outlines draft requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions in accordance with the program’s purpose—to 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.

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.

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 Department of Education has invited the public to give their input through 5 p.m. EDT on Monday July, 11 2011. 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.

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