Ok, I recognize that my previous post on this is pretty long, so here’s a quick and dirty about what you need to know. In order to compete for an Early Learning Challenge Grant, states will have to:
- Commit to and set targets for improving school readiness of high-need children in their state.
- Demonstrate that they have in place a solid strategy and plans to improve early learning outcomes in the state, that they have a track record of progress on and investment in improving early childhood quality and access, and and that they have established coordination and alignment across state agencies to support early learning outcomes.
- Have a plan to develop and implement a statewide Quality Rating and Improvement System that includes all publicly funded early childhood programs/providers in the state, and have plans to increase the percentage of early childhood programs earning top ratings in the QRIS, and of high-need children attending high-quality programs.
States will also have to address criteria related to promoting early learning and development outcomes, improving the quality of the early childhood workforce, and measuring early learning outcomes and programs--but they will have some flexibility and options in the specific activities/strategies they use/prioritize in these areas (a big change from draft criteria released earlier this summer).
The creation and development of state QRIS systems for all childcare and early childhood education settings is clearly going to be the signature initiative of the Early Learning Challenge and probably the area where it makes its greatest mark on state policy--even though there is little evidence from practical application that this programs improve quality or child outcomes (nor is there evidence they don’t).
The administration appears to have backed down on its previous emphasis on the importance of measuring outcomes in early learning programs and using comprehensive assessments to drive program improvements.
And states will not be allowed to apply for the early learning challenge if they don’t have a State Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care and/or if they have not applied for Home Visiting formula funds from a new program created under the Affordable Care Act (this latter requirement is new in the final criteria).
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.