Opinion
Education Opinion

Focus on ELC Focus Areas: What Do You C?

By Sara Mead — January 10, 2012 3 min read

This week, I’m going to be taking a look at ELC Focus Areas--3 sections of the ELC application in which states were allowed to make some choices about what elements to address, as opposed to the 2 Core Areas in which states had to address all components. The Focus Areas and Core Areas each counted for 140 points of the application’s total 300 possible, with an additional 20 points available for addressing two “Competitive Preference Priorities” worth 10 points each.

As I mentioned last week, California’s unexpected win in the Early Learning Challenge competition owed a great deal to its savvy choices and strong performance in the ELC Focus Areas, so it’s worth taking a closer look at these areas, starting today with section C.

Section C of ELC included 4 different components:


  • Early Learning and Development Standards
  • Comprehensive Assessment Systems
  • Identifying and addressing Health, Behavior, and Developmental Needs, and
  • Engaging and Supporting Families.

States applying for ELC had to address at least 2 of these, but could address all 4. A total of 60 points available for the section were divided among the number of categories the state chose to address. (So if a state chose to address 4 sections, each would be worth 15 points; if a state chose to address 2 sections, each would be worth 30. Because this complicates comparing state scores, I’ve chosen to look at them based on the percentage of total possible points earned by a state in each section, given its choices).

Of the 35 states (+ D.C. and Puerto Rico) that chose to apply for ELC:


  • 17 addressed 2 parts of Focus Area C
  • 13 addressed 3 parts
  • 7 addressed all 4 parts

Of the nine states that won grants:


  • 2 (Maryland and North Carolina) addressed all 4 parts
  • Massachusetts addressed 3 parts
  • The remaining 6 states addressed 2 parts

Which parts did states choose to address?


  • C(1): Early Learning and Development Standards, was definitely the most popular section to address, with only two states (Arkansas and Iowa) not choosing to address it. All the winning states addressed this section. States generally performed better on this section than others, with the average percentage of points earned (76%), median (77%), and range (37-98%) about 10 percentage points higher than those for other sections. California, Delaware, and Maryland did particularly well on this section, with California earning a near-perfect score.
  • C(2): Comprehensive Assessment Systems was answered by 25 states, including 6 winning states (Ohio, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, North Carolina, and Maryland). The median % of points earned by states answering this section was 71% and the range was 19-89%. Ohio performed particularly well on this section.
  • C(3): Health, Behavior and Developmental Needs was the least popular section, with only
  • 20 states choosing to address it. 4 winning states (Delaware, North Carolina, California, and Maryland) addressed this section. The median % of points earned by states answering this section was 63% and the range was 19-91%. Delaware and North Carolina performed the best on this section.
  • C(4) Engaging and supporting parents and families was addressed by 22 states, including 4 winning states (Massachusetts, Washington, North Carolina, and Maryland). The median % of points earned by states answering this section was 65% and the range was 32-90%. Massachusetts, Washington, and Pennsylvania performed particularly well on this section.
  • In general, the states that scored well on Focus Area C are the same states that scored well on the ELC as a whole. Had the application been scored solely on states’ performance on Focus Area C, the 9 highest scoring states would have been: Delaware
    California, Washington, Ohio, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New Mexico. Maryland would have been one of the 9 highest ranking states on this Core Area if it had addressed only the 2 focus areas in which it received the highest scores (Standards and Health/Behavior/Development) rather than all 4. It does not appear that any states that did not win the competition would have won had they chosen to address fewer components of this focus area.

    The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.