Published Online: November 3, 2015
Published in Print: November 4, 2015, as Preschool Years

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Preschool Years

"Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge"

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"Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge"

The 20 states that split $1 billion in federal grant money to support early-learning programs are seeing more providers rated as high quality and more children enrolled in those programs, says Read more a U.S. Department of Education assessment.

The progress update on the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants is based on 2014 data submitted by each state that won a grant.

According to the report:

• More than 72,000 early-learning programs are now included in their states' "quality-rating and improvement systems"—an 87 percent increase since states applied for their grants between 2012 and 2014.

• Nearly 14,000 early-childhood programs are in the highest-quality tiers of their states' rating systems, which represents a 63 percent increase.

• More than 200,000 children with "high needs" (for example, developmentally delayed children or English-language learners) are enrolled in state-funded preschool programs that are top-ranked in their states. That's an increase of more than 127,000 children since the beginning of the grant program in 2012.

Vicki Phillips, the head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's K-12 grantmaking team, announced last week that she will step down at the end of the year.

In a letter to colleagues, Phillips said she was "ready to hand the baton forward to the next leader."

Her appointment as the director of the foundation's college-ready education unit, in 2007, marked Gates' pivot away from a focus on small high schools and the beginning of its focus on teacher effectiveness.

Among other wide-ranging and controversial moves, the foundation announced early in Phillips' tenure that it would spend $45 million to identify measures of effective teaching, and hundreds of millions more to help three cities and a charter school consortium adopt aligned teacher-performance systems. Education Week calculated that by the end of 2013, Gates' teacher-quality initiatives totaled nearly $700 million; the foundation now puts that figure at more than $900 million. During Phillips' tenure, the foundation also poured millions into helping to underwrite the creation of the Common Core State Standards, a move that has helped reframe instruction in many classrooms but also generated momentous pushback. (Education Week has also received several grants from the Gates Foundation over the past decade.)

In a telephone interview, Phillips said she is proud of the way "we have worked to put teachers in the center of everything." But she also said she regrets that, in the way the foundation had sequenced and communicated its work, it may have overemphasized the place of teacher evaluation in relation to feedback and support.

Phillips did not give details on a timeline for naming her replacement but said that Allan Golston, the president of the foundation's U.S. program, may fill in on an interim basis.

The foundation last month announced that it plans to stay the course on its massive investments into efforts to improve teacher quality.

Vol. 35, Issue 11, Page 5

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