Race to the Top — Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Program

Public Comment Section for RTT-ELC Executive Summary Now Closed

Thank you to everyone who has submitted opinions, ideas, suggestions, and comments on this dedicated Web site pertaining to the draft executive summary of the draft requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions for the RTT-ELC competition.

We are no longer accepting input on our Web site. Later this summer, we will publish the Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) for the RTT-ELC Program in the Federal Register.

Please check our RTT-ELC Program page for updates.

Thank you.

Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius

On May 25, 2011, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced that the Administration plans to use approximately $500 million of the FY11 Race to the Top funding for a major competition in support of bold and comprehensive State plans for raising the quality of early learning programs. Watch the announcement or listen to a conference call with stakeholders.

This new competition, the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), will be jointly administered by the Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS). The competition will call for States to take a comprehensive approach to developing integrated, high-quality early learning systems, which in turn will help ensure that more children, especially high-need children, enter school ready and able to succeed.

Specific competition requirements, priorities, and selection criteria are still under development. However, consistent with the statute, applicant States will need to take actions to:

  • Increase the number and percentage of low-income and disadvantaged children in each age group of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are enrolled in high-quality early learning programs;
  • Design and implement an integrated system of high-quality early learning programs and services; and
  • Ensure that any use of assessments conforms with the recommendations of the National Research Council’s reports on early childhood.

In order to run a rigorous competition and obligate funds to grantees before December 31, 2011, the ED plans to waive rulemaking on this new program, pursuant to its authority in the General Education Provisions Act. However, ED and HHS are very interested in your input. We encourage all interested parties to submit opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments pertaining to the RTT-ELC competition below.

This is a moderated site. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. We intend to post all responsive submissions on a timely basis. We reserve the right not to post comments that are unrelated to this request, are inconsistent with ED’s Web site policies, are advertisements or endorsements, or are otherwise inappropriate. To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. For more information, please be sure to read the “comments policy” tab at the top of the Web page.

The fine print. Please understand that posts must be related to the RTT-ELC competition and program, and should be as specific as possible, and, as appropriate, supported by data and relevant research. Posts must be limited to 1,000 words. All opinions, ideas, suggestions and comments are considered informal input. ED and HHS will not respond to individual posts, and these posts may or may not be reflected in the policies and requirements of the program. If you include a link to additional information in your post, we urge you to ensure that the linked-to information is accessible to all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. Additionally, please do not include links to advertisements or endorsements; we will delete all such links before your comment is posted.

Again, thank you for your interest in this historic opportunity to support early learning. We look forward to hearing from you.


  1. Public libraries serve all of the public at all ages and in PA, public libraries offer programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and more. Some libraries even have parent storytimes for expectant mothers, teaching them important pre-literacy skills to work with when their little ones arrive. Libraries offer First Books to newborns in some districts. Please make sure that public libraries are FIRST on the list of programs considered for development.

  2. Children’s Museums do exactly what Race for The Top wants and should be awarded extra funding. The Museum where I work, Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore, runs regular programs for caregivers with infants and toddlers that help develop early literacy skills while also providing developmental tips for the adults regarding their children’s development. Circle time for preschoolers uses books in fun ways, in an atmosphere of imagination and joy.

    The “Every Child Ready To Read” Program, developed by The Association of Library Services for Children and the Public Library Association, states that there are activities an adult can do with their child in order to help them achieve reading readiness. These activities are: Sing, Talk, Read, Write, and Play. All of these occur in our museum; adults are encouraged to interact joyfully with their children and given many opportunities to do so.

    Please consider helping children’s museums to grow and thrive by increasing funding.

    Thank you.

  3. The Race to the Top–Early Learning Challenge Needs to Consider Elementary School-level Academic Proficiency

    I urge the administration to consider the critical importance that the elementary school environment plays in sustaining the gains of early childhood programs. For the past decade, research has demonstrated the importance of maintaining the continuum of quality education from early childhood into elementary school.

    First, Currie (2000) found that children who had been enrolled in Head Start went on to attend poorer elementary schools. Second, more recent findings from the Head Start Impact Study (Executive Summary, p. x) showed Head Start children in their 3-year-old cohort were more likely to attend schools where the student body had lower math proficiency scores. Third, even though New Jersey has done a wonderful job enhancing the quality of early childhood education via Abbott preschools, data from the New Jersey Department of Education indicates that by 4th grade fewer children in Abbott districts are at/above academic proficiency compared to children in other districts. This finding is evident despite the fact that research has repeatedly shown long-term benefits of the Abbott preschools well into 1st grade (Frede et al., 2007, 2009). Lastly, my own work (Curenton et al., 2010) using the ECLS-K database to look at 5th grade math and reading achievement for children who attended Head Start, school-based prekindergarten, or center-based child care showed children who attended Head Start were enrolled in elementary schools where the student body had fewer 5th graders who were at/above proficiency in math or reading.

    These research results implore the administration to think about the quality of the elementary schools where poor children are attending. It is no surprise that poor children attend schools with higher proportions of children in poverty and higher proportions of minority students (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010, p. x of the Executive Summary). The benefits of high quality education will not last if children are placed in poor elementary school environments. We have to ensure that a continuum of quality education is provided throughout elementary school.

    Although the early childhood leaders in the administration conceptualize early childhood education consistent with the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) definition of early childhood education as spanning from birth to age 8, the focus of this legislation is on birth to age 5. Nevertheless, the administration can encourage states to think about (and plan for) a birth to age 8 education quality continuum. The mechanism for doing so could be embedded in the application criteria; for example, there could be a criterion referred to as “Building a Birth to Age 8 Education Continuum.” For this criterion, points could be awarded for adequately demonstrating children in their early childhood programs would feed into elementary schools where higher percentages of children meet or exceed academic proficiency levels. Another way states might address this criterion is by providing plans for how schools serving poor children intend to improve the proficiency levels of their 4th graders. A third idea for addressing such a criterion could be for states to demonstrate they have (or are attempting to) develop a comprehensive early childhood to 3rd grade system. Embedding such a criterion into the scoring system of the applications encourages states to think about the continuum and to begin developing plans. The additional “points” they would earn in their application would provide an incentive for applicants to systematically begin the planning process.

    Curenton, S. M., Russell, L. B., & Shen, X. (2010). Using Propensity Score Matching to Control for Hardship Risks in an Investigation of the Effects of Early Childhood Education on 5th Grade Literacy and Math Skills. Unpublished manuscript.

    Currie, J. & Thomas, D. (2000). School quality and the longer-term effects of Head Start. Journal of Human Resources, 35(4), 755-774.

    Frede, E., Jung, K., Barnett, W. S., Lamy, C. E., & Figueras, A. (2007, June). The Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study (APPLES). Interim Report. New Brunswick; National Institute for Early Education Research.

    Frede, E., Jung, K., Barnett, W. S., & Figueras, A. (2009, June). The APPLES Blossom: Abbott Preschool Program Longitudinal Effects Study (APPLES), Preliminary Results through 2nd Grade. New Brunswick; National Institute for Early Education Research.

    U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (January, 2010). Head Start Impact Study. Final Report. Washington, DC.

  4. To Dept. of Education & Dept. of Health and Human Services Directors and Staff. Re: RTT-ELC competition and program. Please consider that specific competition requirements must include all grant recipients work with public libraries. Public Libraries and specifically, children’s public librarians are natural partners with the early childhood community, and other child-centered or family oriented organizations. Statewide we celebrate One Book Every Young Child program which promotes the important role that parents and adult caregivers have in fostering a young child’s development of pre-reading skills. We partner with local early childhood centers, daycares and home providers during this project through story times, family story times. In addition, we know that many children in our communities are not able to attend formalized childcare due to family economics, lack of transportation, and other reasons. Our local public libraries become the one destination that these ‘left out’ children and their family members congregate to. Our early learning picture books for infants, toddlers and preschool children function for many as their ‘home library’ — we are putting books on these children’s home shelves; thereby affording parent and children learning time together. Public Libraries offer access to young learners over and over again. Children’s Librarians are professional selectors of picture books for this young age group, knowing what is age-appropriate for a child’s developmental level. We have become the resource for early childhood educators for not only information about age-appropriate books, and are now providing classroom learning experiences through our online early learning resources such as TumbleBooks. This online resource has narrated picture books which come ‘alive’ for a young viewer. In month of May we had 40,657 book views. That translates into many young children being engaged in literacy and in a fun way. Early childhood educators are thrilled to have this resource come into their classroom, or home daycare for the young children in their care. I’ve had a parent with a child with a disability tell me that she loves it because she can roll up her child’s wheelchair to the computer and the child can enjoy listening to a book be read aloud to her. Her daughter has physical condition which prevents her from being able to hold a book in her hands. Tumblebooks gives this child a valuable literacy experience. Our libraries are also providing Sing, Sign Storytimes which incorporate ASL into our book reading; thereby providing natural settings for children with disabilities to attend storytime. Our partner for this is Early Intervention and other local organizations in the county. Another partner is United Way and Success by Six. We share resources such as calendar activity guides entitled “Here I Come” full of activities for parents/adult caregivers to do with their children. Another partner is Family Literacy. We provide them with our summer reading Read Aloud charts for their families. Our bookmobile stops at their summer sites. For Summer Reading we partner with all 16 public school districts, 28 non-public schools, Head Start, Child Care Information Services and others. Last year, for our Read Aloud summer reading program level we had 6,537 children birth to 5 years participate. Another partner in a project involved Susquehanna Blind Association and Visually Impaired organization; they helped us figure out best selection of Braille and Twin Vision books for a grant we received. We also provide Family Place parent/child sessions which are informal play times with manipulatives, art, large motor activites, literature, puzzles and such. At each session a ‘resource professional’ visits to discuss with any parent/adult caregiver in attendance their topic of expertise. For example a nutritionist from local WIC comes and a parent may ask about child’s eating habits, or lack of. WIC speaks informally about any concerns and if need exists makes recommendation to parent to seek perhaps professional assistance. This program reaches parents who may feel isolated and unsure about their child’s development. Our library is the bridge to community agencies. Please know that by including criteria that includes ‘must work with local public libraries’ required, we as library professionals will help you reach your goals. Your goals and ours are the same — we want young children to thrive.

  5. Anyone who really understands children knows that this initiative is going 180 degrees in the wrong direction. We do not have to train five year olds to “sit still.” We should be taking a look at the Finnish model, where formal education does not start until age seven, but early childhood education serves to foster exploration, observation, creativity and physical development. If, as Secretary Sebelius has been quoted as saying, half the kids in a fairly homogeneous Kansan community “can’t” sit still – maybe it’s not the kids. Maybe it’s our expectations.

  6. As the Executive Director for the Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn, I am asking that you consider children’s museums be included in the RTT-ELC guidelines, encouraging states and communities to partner with children’s museums. Children’s museums are important to not only the immediate communities they serve, but also to the region they serve by helping prepare children for school, partnering with schools to provide hands-on exploratory learning, and helping children learn 21st century skills including critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic literacy and global awareness. Children’s museums encourage parental involvement in their child’s education, which is critical for success in school. Children’s museums have a real, positive impact on child learning by providing environments that encourage exploration and learning in a fun, safe setting. Thank you for considering their inclusion into these guidelines.

    • I fully support museums to be a part of this. We work locally with museums in our Family Museum Pass program. Our local museums have excellent educators who conduct valuable heritage, cultural and natural science outreach programs at our local public libraries. This is a worthwhile partnership that supports children’s out-of-school learning experiences. Thank you.

  7. On behalf of The Children’s Museum of the Upstate we applaud the Administration’s emphasis on early education and providing the necessary resources through programs such as the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Program. As a member of the Association of Children’s Museums we respectfully request that you require states applying for challenge grants to recognize the substantive educational contributions made by children’s museums by including these institutions as official partners in state proposals.

    Given the important role children’s museums play in their communities, as well as the meaningful partnerships they forge within their communities, they should be included in the planning of early education and development programs. Therefore, we urge you to have states to include children’s museums as partners in their proposals for RTT-ELC Program funding.

  8. I am the Executive Director of WOW! Children’s Museum in Lafayette Colorado. WOW! is dedicated to providing educational interactive exhibits, activities and programs for all children – bringing families together in a creative environment that parks imagination, inspires learning through play, and supports school readiness. We work with area schools, libraries and artists, performers and cultural groups to bring resources to families that meet this mission. We bring our educational programs to schools without transportation; our drop in science programs are geared for children as young as 18 months through elementary school. We foster quality family time, creative thinking, and help develop process skills for children to be prepared to do their best in school. Our scholarship fund, requiring $90,000 annually, covers the cost of admission for all these programs and exhibits for children from socio-economically disadvantaged families. In 2010, this fund supported over 11,000 children and families from Colorado.

  9. As someone who founded a children’s museum in what used to be a small southern town- I’d sure like to see the State and schools partner on these grants with their local youth museums. I’m CEO of Discovery Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and we work constantly – and often in a pro bono capacity- to engage the community, parents and teachers in learning. We work wtih area schools to provide teacher training, inservices and we mentor teachers in providing hands-on learning methods in the classroom. We are committed to linking learning with life at our museum and in partnering with our local schools from preschool to University students.

  10. I sincerely hope a closer look is taken at small and rural communities tying to provide quality early education. Too often are we over looked. Large cities have their struggles as do the small. We live in a rural Wyoming community that has harsh winters and short summers. There is great challenge some days to get to the bus stop let alone worries over cuts in education funding. Working at the the local non-profit preschool has opened my eyes to how important early education really is. I look forward to seeing the results of these efforts.

  11. The National Down Syndrome Society is very pleased by the attention this grant will focus on early childhood education. It is critically important that the needs of children with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities are considered as the integrated, high-quality early learning systems are developed under this grant program. NDSS has been pleased to hear Secretary Duncan express support for Universal Design for Learning (UDL), which is an educational framework that ensures all students (including English language learners, gifted students, students with disabilities) have the supports and challenge they need. The integrated high quality early learning systems to be developed under this grant will meet the needs of ALL children, if the grant application criteria require applicants to show how they will incorporate the principles of UDL in the the goals, purchase/development/use of instructional materials, teacher preparation and post-service professional development and any assessments.

  12. On behalf of nearly 250 children’s museums in the United States, the Association of Children’s Museums applauds the partnership between ED and HHS to raise the quality of early learning programs. The money through the program will impact the design and implementation of high-quality early learning programs and the number of low-income and disadvantaged preschoolers enrolled in effective child development programs and will ensure that any use of assessments conforms to the recommendations of the National Research Council’s reports on early childhood. States applying for grants through the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Program should be encouraged to include children’s museums as official partners in state proposals.

    Children’s museums deliver innovative family engagement strategies; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; and professional development for teachers. These are all subjects that we believe Congress meant the RTT-ELC program to impact.

    More than 31 million children and families visit a children’s museum each year. Equally important, children’s museums’ grassroots outreach programs bring informal learning experiences to schools and community settings. Nearly 250 children’s museums operate throughout the United States; two-thirds are located in urban centers while the remaining third serves suburban and rural communities.

    The landmark study “Learning in Children’s Museums: Is It Really Happening?” (Puchner, Rapoport & Gaskins, 2001) confirms that while children play in a children’s museum, observable and quantifiable learning takes place. From simple cause and effect, to small motor skills, to informational, procedural learning, to conceptual cause and effect, the study documented changes in children’s mental representations due to experiences at a children’s museum. Children’s museums rely on research and best practices to guide their programs, exhibits and community outreach.

    Given the diverse capabilities and expertise of children’s museums, as well as their deep reach within their communities, it is only natural they should be included in the planning of early education and development programs. Therefore, we urge you to direct states to include children’s museums as partners in their proposals for RTT-ELC Program funding.

  13. On behalf of nearly 250 children’s museums in the United States, the Association of Children’s Musuems applauds the partnership between ED and HHS to raise the quality of early learning programs. The money through the program will impact the design and implementation of high-quality early learning programs and the number of low-income and disadvantaged preschoolers enrolled in effective child development programs and will ensure that any use of assessments conforms to the recommendations of the National Research Council’s reports on early childhood. States applying for grants through the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Program should be encouraged to include children’s museums as official partners in state proposals.

    Children’s museums deliver innovative family engagement strategies; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; and professional development for teachers. These are all subjects that we believe Congress meant the RTT-ELC program to impact.

    More than 31 million children and families visit a children’s museum each year. Equally important, children’s museums’ grassroots outreach programs bring informal learning experiences to schools and community settings. Nearly 250 children’s museums operate throughout the United States; two-thirds are located in urban centers while the remaining third serves suburban and rural communities.

    The landmark study “Learning in Children’s Museums: Is It Really Happening?” (Puchner, Rapoport & Gaskins, 2001) confirms that while children play in a children’s museum, observable and quantifiable learning takes place. From simple cause and effect, to small motor skills, to informational, procedural learning, to conceptual cause and effect, the study documented changes in children’s mental representations due to experiences at a children’s museum. Children’s museums rely on research and best practices to guide their programs, exhibits and community outreach.

    Given the diverse capabilities and expertise of children’s museums, as well as their deep reach within their communities, it is only natural they should be included in the planning of early education and development programs. Therefore, we urge you to direct states to include children’s museums as partners in their proposals for RTT-ELC Program funding.

  14. I would encourage you to include parenting educating, especially home visitation, in this grant application. The importance of reaching children as early as possible has been recognized for a long time now; however, the role of parents has not been supported as it should be. Even if children are in child care/nursery schools for substancial periods of time it is the reinforcement (or lack thereof) of the learning in the home that has the longest-lasting affects on the child and the person they will become. Even the best early education/care programs can only do so much to reverse negative home environments or those that don’t provde the appropriate stimulation. If they are instead supporting positive home environments the results will be three fold – better child outcomes, happier families and less stressed care providers/educators. The early care and education providers can serve as the home visitors and indeed are often the best people to do so as they already have a relationship with the children and the parents and can work at developing consistency at home and in the early care and education setting.

    • I agree that parent education and support are critical components of a successful early childhood education program and that home visiting is one of the best vehicles for providing those services. I also strongly suggest that services for parental depression be included in program design.

  15. I would like to highly encourage a grant option for organizations who are interested in providing professional development for ECE teachers. I am an early childhood specialist at a public library and we offer programs not just for children, but for parents and professionals. In our community ECE professionals struggle to find high quality, budget-friendly professional development opportunities — especially opportunities that address the unique needs in our community. In 2010 we offered our first full-day early childhood conference and it was so apparent that the professionals and parents in attendance were hungry for information!

  16. Interesting news and interesting comments. Many suggestions about other alternatives as to how this funding could be used. I would suggest all of these are studied and this funding be opened up to diverse solutions. I agree with much that has been said about early learning and the critical time frame of birth to three. I would suggest consideration be given to program that also help children communicate. If you have problems processing language; have speech delays; or you can not verbally communicate, you fall behind quickly. There are simple solutions to this but in the for profit sector they are incredibly expensive. The nonprofit sector that offers these solutions struggles with funding because this issue is not only limited to low-income children. Lets start looking at the FACT that just because you make a decent income or have a dual income, it doesn’t mean you have indisposable income to take care of many issues that come up. Speech therapy can cost $20K yearly. If you make $100K – considered a healthy income – can you afford to spend 20% of it on speech therapy? I’m simply saying that some problems are not focused on socio-economic status and all chidlren deserve a chance to learn, no matter what their particular issue. I encourage the powers that be to think outside the box on this one.

  17. This would be a great opportunity for schools to partner with their local libraries. As a children’s librarian, I would love to work with preschool teachers to give children under the age a five the tools they need to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. The American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read program would be a great fit for this!

  18. State plans to raise the quality of early learning should recognize the value of informal learning environments, particularly children’s museums. Children’s museums serve parents AND children. They encourage parental involvement, which is integral to children’s ongoing success in formal education. Children’s museums can also play an important role in improving the quality to early care, particularly for family care providers who seldom have access to professional development. Children’s museums can support family day care providers in methods to bring a rich and more stimulating learning to their home environments in a simple and cost-effective manner.
    This program should directly acknowledge the role of children’s museums in supporting high quality early learning and should encourage the use of children’s museums in state plans.

  19. Thank you for your attention to our youngest learners. I am hoping that this is a way to create a more diverse population of children in high-quality schools who may be, for example, created and supported financially to serve a defined population, such as a college lab school or a faith-based program.

  20. I hope this is a sure thing. We have been through hard times before, but I have not ever witnessed so many budget cuts. I own and Direct a center that has been on a wing and a prayer for awhile. We help so many people that are struggling to make ends meet that we are worried about the center operating. The area we serve is in Northern Mississippi and this area lost so many businesses that our unemployed people were so desperate. We do work with the Department of Human Services and do use their certificates. So we need this help so desperately. Way to GO!!!!!

  21. This is a great addition to existing efforts in support of human development — a hallmark of a society’s civility, its intentionality toward a living democracy, and a commitment to maintaining high standards. As a museum professional and educator, it is essential to include children’s museums as willing and able partners in the work of addressing early childhood needs. For over 100 years, children’s museums in the U.S. have been serving as community-focused sites of learning and family interaction. At the National Children’s Museum (and in its antecedent Capital Children’s Museum), we have collaborated and partnered with libraries in Oklahoma, Minnesota, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maine, and other locales to train-the-trainers of formal and informal educators serving expectant parents, children, and whole families in the use of literacy -focused modules to strengthen skills, build stronger relationships, and to provide meaningful experiences benefiting children.

    Kudos to Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius for advancing critical work through the RTT-ELC Program. It is the hope of many that this program will support the continued role museums play in the development, recovery and sustenance of healthy communities throughout the United States.

  22. This is an important grant. As we move toward systems of seamless interest and care for all our yong children, this is a step forward. Raising public awareness of the developing young child, using local resources from libraries to local playgrounds and natural sites as opportunities to learn will help us move toward the communities we all want to live in. Legislators should be involved so we can continue to see policies developed based on the successes of programs. Please do not forget foster children and the prison population.

  23. Don’t forget your local public library. Many libraries have excellent high quality collections of materials for birth through 100 plus, but this does include early childhood.
    Many libraries offer free pre-reading classes and/or storytimes for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Many of these classes are scheduled on the weekends and evenings for working parents. Many libraries already have relationships with local agencies that help young children, including Head Start.
    My local library even offers a free bus ticket program to get to the library.
    I think sometimes we forget how important reading books to young children is. Starting a library habit and sticking with it can influence and improve language development skills and greatly improve the quality of life for the child in the future.
    Many libraries are already established. Communities need to tap into this resource in order to take advantage of the services already offered.

  24. Please remember that not all pre-k programs are located in a state department of education. Many pre-k programs are also mixed delivery, which includes public education, Head Start, private childcare, faith-based and military. I think this is important as you begin to develop guidance for the proposal.

    I don’t think that there should be a strong role for legislators in the rfp. There is already legislative membership on each state’s advisory council, as well, as the Governor’s Executive Order for each Council. Having legislators sign off or approve is too messy. Remember, each state is different and you don’t want the process blocked by any agenda. It should be the role of the Governor to appoint/designate the lead, as they often do in each state.

    More to come………

  25. A note on the assessment piece. It is very important, but must be an authentic assessment. A return to the pre and post testing of early learners would be counter productive. Anything resembling the National Reporting System would be a huge step backward.
    Dispositions toward learning, curiosity, problem solving, executive function,etc., must be included to build a solid foundation for future success. Total emphasis on ABC, 1-2-3 will not give children the skills that they need or measure performance of a program effectively. An assessment tool must have provisions for dual language learners and children with special needs.
    Collaboration is the key. Why reinvent the entire wheel when Head Start Program Performance Standards can be adapted? Most states have established standards for early education. It sounds like the timeline is going to be too tight to start from scratch.

  26. Increasing the percentage of children entering school ready to learn is a priorty throughout the nation. Children’s museums can play an integral role in getting us there — what we do early with our children really matters and sparking a love of learing early is a role that children’s museums do exceedingly well in communities across the country. Parterning with local school systems and providing access to all are initiatives that are priorities.

  27. We know success in school and life begins at birth. We also know a child’s most important developmental years are those leading up to kindergarten. No matter where a child is being taken care of, there needs to be an understanding of these facts.

    Therefore, it is rewarding that Early Childhood Education (ECE) is to be recognized as part of an educational system for our children through this competition. That learning really does begin the day a child is born and perhaps earlier. The attention that ECE will receive because of this funding opportunity will help bring this understanding to more of a reality across our country.

    In this endeavor, I hope that extra consideration would be given to those states that have used alternative governance structures to build a state system, i.e. First Five, First Things First, Smart Start. I would also hope that there is consideration to giving as much flexibility as possible to accommodate the diverse funding streams and the various ways states have initiated system building efforts. Then, perhaps it won’t be long before everyone, parents, guardians, business leaders, legislators, etc., realize the importance and numerous advantages to having such a system in place. This should only be the beginning of having a system of Early Education for all of our youngest children.

  28. First off, thank you!

    Those of us who have committed our careers to the Early Care and Education field have long awaited this happy day when our work is recognized for it’s unequaled value in the realm of “education.” The quotations here are intentional, as should be our practice when working with our babies. Early Childhood Education is less education than it is skilled facilitation of learning through play. A child under the age of five should never realize they are being taught. That responsibility lies with the adult who knows how to follow a child’s lead in their play and skillfully expand the experience into one that opens new doors and begs new questions, new approaches and new connections in the brain!

    I implore you to bear this in mind when developing these systems – make them of the highest priority lest we loose or quash the most amazing, natural processes of human development and the magic of childhood itself.

    Secondly, people working in this field need to be well educated in developing the skills necessary to work in this manner. Early Care and Education should never look like a mini version of elementary education. It is not the same thing and the training that people receive to work in the field should, in turn, not be the same.

    That being said, providing those working in the field the support that they need to continue their education and then be duly compensated needs to be one of the first priorities in raising the standard. Many of the already established standards set for Head Start, Early Head Start and military systems will serve well in developing these new systems. Why re-invent the wheel when we already have many fabulous models from which to work!

    Thanks again from a 30 year, well educated and abysmally compensated veteran!

  29. This is what I have been waiting for, someone who avocade for those who most needed the children in Early Childhood Education. I’m looking foward to hear the result.

  30. Quality early childhood programs are the way out of our failing school systems. If we can put monies into children’s preschool education, it will benefit society by tenfold.
    Building those positive relationships with young children and their families makes a huge difference in their achievement in later grades. I am concerned however that when states education departments get their two cents into this, they may mandate inappropriate curriculum or assessment strategies and ruin preschool education like they have done at the kindergarten level. PLEASE let the people who know and understand preschool education make key decisions so we are able to engage these little ones in the activities we know build a good foundation for learning. I shudder to think they will be expecting 3 & 4 year olds to hold a pencil correctly and complete worksheets.

  31. I read all of the above comments with great interest.They are filled with wisdom. It seems so improtant that funding opportunities be structured in a way that truly encourages collaboration between the early care/education, health/mental health, parent ed and support system. There is much talk about innovative cross system approaches but frequently the actual rfp design discourages this as in the case of the Affordable Care $$’s for home visiting. The first criteria should be to fund existing local models that have a track record of providing comprehensive, collaborative supports to young children and their families. Of course we want apporaches that work so thes models should be utilizing effective practices with $$’s to gather the evidence so we can continue to grow the body of knowledge. Most importantly, I hope that this important initiative will make the parent ed and support piece as improtant as the accessiblitly/quality care piece. Many resources have been dedicated to and great strides have been made in early childhood development in the area of care/education but far fewer resources have been focused on parent education/engagement and family support. Even the best early care setting cannot mitigate the effects of parents who cannot meet the physical, social, emotional or educational needs of their children.

  32. Congratulations! What an exciting time for early childhood! During the conference call, I appreciated comments from Mr. Rodriquez and Ms. Jones. The emphasis on cognitive and social/emotional development. The effort to define “quality early childhood programs” is vital in my mind for applicants. The reference to the latest early childhood research such as the National Early Literacy Panel and the National Research Council Early Childhood Math report released in 2009 is important as well.
    My question: How do the K-12 Common Core State Standards apply to this application? Granted the PreK CCSS are not drafted yet, but it would seem that applicants would want to align their project design to ensure a pathway to success. Kindergartens will be arriving in CCSS classrooms. Also missing during the call yesterday was the alignment with the PreK-3 initiative which has been a point of focus since 2010. The integration of programs was very clear. Thank you.

  33. I am encouraged and excited to learn about the earlychildhood learning challenge. I would encourage considering the successful approaches used by early childhood programs that include active parent participation and participatory helpgiving practices. Family literacy programs have been successful in having an impact on children by impacting their parent’s literacy, and parenting education and parent support of their children’s literacy devleopment and early school success. Family literacy programs use a comprehensive approach to helping children and families. Head Start is not the answer for all.

  34. My work history is not in the education sector and I just happend across this blog and would like to comment from my stand point. I have raised 3 daughters and I was a single working mother and I am Hispanic. All of my daughters could read, write and count before they went to school. There were no programs that encouraged me to do so I was to busy working and raising children to be alerted of any help. I wanted more for my daughters and knew this is where it starts. Look at the last endevors maybe it is alot simpler than you think. Don’t over think the your solution. Please forgive my simplicity.
    The goal is for every child to be able to read, write, count, know their colors etc..
    Advertise if you have a child that can perform these stated task you will be saved a seat in pre k or K classes and monitored for all their school career(we do this anyway). When children start showing a lack of performance a report sent to parent with additional homework and a place to take them for additional help if they can not perform task with children. (My church is opening a Go Center to help children who don’t have after school support). Then when they complete elementary give them a voucher for schools with higher acadamics or other reasons they would like another choice. ( we do this too already with transfer days). Again monitor and offer solutions when a childs performance is lacking and as they get closer to graduation. Promise a free college education sign them up for Pell Grant if available. (which we do already) My point is sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel but RESELL it in a new package.

    • I think what you achieved with your daughters ws very admirable. As a preschool teacher, I do need to add, for others reading these posts, a child entering kindergarten is NOT required to read or write. Reading siactually not age appropriate til 6 or even 7 but our system has pushed children forward. Kindergarten is the new 1st grade. While I encourage and expose my students to the basics, ABC’s, numbers, spacial concepts, patterning, etc, it is not a requirement for kindergarten. In fact, K teachers tell parents that it is not required, yet they tell me they wish them to write their name, sit at circle, walk in a line and know all the above.

      You are lucky that your church is offereing help. While schools used to offer homework clubs after hours, they have all been discarded due to the budget. In fact, a Universal Prek class in our district was just changed. Since so many middle income families signed up for the lottery, they cancelled lottery.

      Regarding Pell grants, these are based on need only, I believe. My children were denied these because of our income (and believe me, for what I do, preschool teachers do NOT make much). FAFSA does NOT take into account that I live in the county with the highest property taxes (Journal News, 4/28/11) or the size of my mortgage and heating bills. Trust me, “free” secondary education is out there, but NOT for everyone.

      One last note, sending additional homework is not the answer IMHO. If a child is not getting it in class there is either a learning issue or a teaching issue. Sending it home to parents who won’t understand it doesn’t help. “New math” anyone?

      Ann, great work with your girls. I am sure they will continue to grow and succeed because they have an INVOLVED parent. Another key to the education process. My guess is that you also give them responsibilities and consequences and expect respect. Kudos to you! 🙂

  35. I have been waiting for the “powers that be” to wake up and understand that as a nation our culture is no longer preparing children for learning. More and more students are entering kindergarten without the necessary skills to meet standards so they start behind. I applaud this effort, but I don’t hold a lot of hope for it. Making states the gateway is too huge. I am a big believer in public education, but I have failed to see states do anything very well with early childhood programs. The bigger the entity getting the funds the more diluted they are when they reach the child’s level. Open this up to any organization that can create a program that reaches children. require them to use scientifically based strategies that understand chld development. Give them rigorious requirements to collect and keep data that demonstrates effectiveness. Require them to show ongoing proof of meeting those students needs. Take what they develop that works and help create other programs. I firmly believe you can create a program that would have all five years old meeting entry level standards for kindergarten, but I think it has to be created at a community level keeping their needs in mind. One size does not fit all. States are too huge and too far removed from the front lines. Too often I see money granted for program with very little required in terms of proof that it is being used effectively. Imagine a school, a community, a state or a country where every child entered kindergarten with the skills they needed to be successful. Imagine the difference for child who is moving forward instead of playing catch up. Be sure you what fund does that.

    • I think Patty makes an excellent and very important point.

      Our education system is structured so that by the time the funds trickle down from the state to the individual child, a substantial chunk has already been consumed by the layers of administration in. There is very little left by the time it reaches schools and educators.

      I suggest awarding this money as challenge grants to individual entrepreneurs. Each grant awardee must commit to delivering results at the level of her school district. Release the money in phases so that only those who produce results are rewarded. An initial $100,000 grant can be made on the condition that tangible results in terms of improved performance in assessments at the end of the school year be shown in ONE school, in ONE school district, in ONE year. If that result is delivered, release another $250,000 to deploy this system across the district. Gather data for 3 subsequent years. If the results are encouraging, now deploy the system across the county (not country!).

      I agree with Patty that a one-size-fits-all solution for every school/community across the country does not exist. The best solution is to empower people who live in those communities to solve the problem for the biggest chunk of population where their methods are effective.

      In summary I suggest planting the seeds far and wide across the country, and letting a thousand flowers bloom instead of concentrating funding at the state level.

  36. It’s a great initiative to focus on early learning and work towards systems that address specific learning requirements. With so many new technologies out there to enhance learning experiences, it’s important to identify the tools and systems that can provide teachers/parents with means and ways to engage young learners.

    The need for assessment is a point that we believe must be clearly defined and stressed upon. For any early learning system to be deemed and rewarded as a winner, a method of assessment of its actual influence on improving learning is a must. Rather than suggesting use of assessments, please consider a system incomplete without an assessment module incorporated.

    Collaboration between organizations, and institutions is also something that should be explored. While competition will bring forward ideas, collaboration between the right groups may result in an innovation that could impact early learning in a much more positive way.

  37. In addition in order to provide quality care for all children we need to provide the opportunity to develop quality childcare professionals. In these days and times all children are at some kind of dis-advantage.

  38. I pray that Oklahoma applies and the monies are used to allow more caregivers the opportunity to achieve their CCP’s. At this time the Scholar’s for Excellence program appears to be limited because of the rules on who can participate. This grant money could help us build a more committed and solid base of caregivers for our children.
    Think of how many CCP’s could be accomplished, the skys the limit. come on Oklahoma let’s get on the ball!!

  39. This is an incredible opportunity for those who are eligible to apply. I’m saddened and deeply disappointed that the U. S. Territories are not eligible to receive funding under “Race to the Top.” Unfortunately, our children, citizens of the United States who should have equal rights and privileges as other citizens, are continually left behind.

  40. I applaud all of the energy and enthusiasm displayed so far by so many stakeholders from the Early Childhood Education profession. I understand the desire to take a portion of this fund and dedicate it to a specific need such as Head Start, professional development, libraries, tribal ECE, or special needs children.

    However, I think these kinds of efforts are completely missing the point of this fund. The kind of funding suggested perpetuates the “silo” delivery of ECE and does little to support statewide system of ECE that brings on board all of the essential stakeholders and people of influence. The Early Learning Challenge fund should be used in the states to first support comprehensive efforts to create systems and infrastructure that ensure access and quality of ALL types of ECE.

    When this funding is gone we need to have in place an effort and an attitude in a given state that has everyone – politicians, parents, voters, ECE staff, business leaders, and college instructors – understanding the need for and backing high level support of ECE. I believe it can be done, but not by dedicating the Early Learning Challenge fund just to Head Start, or just to special needs, or just to libraries. Everyone needs better support and everyone needs to work together to bring this about.

    • I absolutely agree that all ECE professionals should be at the table and working collaboratively! That is the pathway to success when there is a community network to support the kids and their families…not working in parallel but TOGETHER!

  41. Children’s brains do not develop properly and children cannot learn what we want them to learn for life, unless children feel safe and connected. When children do not feel safe and connected their ‘learning’ will be channeled into finding strategies that maximize their survival in a risky environment, and those survival strategies do not work well in school. Feeling safe and connected are two prerequisites to curiosity and engagement in early learning. Teachers have the exact same requirements that must be met before they themselves can be and feel effective. We need to be sure our early learning organizations provide that emotionally safe and nurturing environment for the adults who work there, and that these adults have an opportunity to regularly reflect on the strong emotions that can be elicited working with young children. Finally, parents who have not had a safe and connected beginning in this world, and who may continue to feel threatened in so many ways, are unlikely to be the parents they want to be with out help.

    Exposure to early life stress, such as parental depression, child abuse and neglect, and domestic violence, affects areas of the involved in cognition and l emotional regulation. Interestingly, removal from the stressful environment reverses many cognitive deficits, but this is less true for emotional regulation. When a hypersensitivity to emotional arousal endures, children and adults remain vigilant to threat, and anger and fear are triggered more readily by ambiguous events. Because their various regulatory capacities are less developed, children exposed to early life stress are more apt to react impulsively and explosively to threat or frustration. Poorly regulated toddlers and preschoolers are not ready to learn.

    Intensive infant and early childhood mental health services that focus on helping caregivers to regulate strong emotions and also focus on the relationship between child and parent are essential. We simply cannot afford to think that mental health involves another system to which educators refer children. For infants and young children, the quality of their primary relationships, their physical health and mental well-being, and their readiness to learn, are entwined.

    • Beautifully said. It will be crucial that this aspect of learning is addressed in professional development as well. And i order to provide guidance to families, the program must include an adequate number of social workers, trauma specialists, and behaviorists.

      • I completely agree, Karen and Susan. I volunteer once a week in my sons’ classrooms–they go to the same public school. Their dedicated and intelligent teachers, in addition to trying to teach the daily curriculum, are interrupted several times during a short period because of behavioral or emotional problems with certain children. These are not bad children, they are not dumb children, and dear Lord, please don’t call them hopeless children. I have spoken to many of these “problem” children individually, and I have heard a wealth of stories about the serious issues they face at home. Issues that no child should have to experience, and issues that most people will never experience in their lifetimes. I’m glad that at my sons’ school, there is a guidance counselor, a family interventionist, an assistant principal, and a committed principal to help these children with the emotions and thoughts they deal with on a daily basis–emotions and thoughts that keep them from sitting still in their seats and listening to the teacher. And having these resources in the school allows the teachers to excel at what they do best–teaching our precious children.

  42. I think this an excellent grant for our early childhood programs. But what about the single parent homes who’s income does not allow them to qualify for low income programs, they cannot afford private care, and they do not recieve aid from AFDC so their child care is not subidized. Those children are being cared for by family memebers and the result is missed opportunities. The grant should incudle funds for the single parent homes which will enable those children to attend quality programs too.

    • Mattie,
      I agree that there is a gap between low-income families that qualify for services and families that are right above the income limit. I do though think that this problem is just not just based on single parent homes. There are many two-parent homes that barely do not meet the financial need.

      We do need to find ways to close this gap and make ECE available to all children.

  43. Awesome opportunity for some! However, consider opening the competition to more than just state level requests. Not all states are created equal in their political commitment to early childhood learning, yet many of us are working very hard to do exactly what this grant desires.
    Maximize the use of funds by seriously considering the amount allowed for state admin costs. Losing half the dollars awarded because of state overhead taken off the top means so much less available for services. Due to variations in personnel/program outcomes, “big name” players (Head Start, Child Care Resource Referral, schools, etc) are not always the best service option in every location in the US. Please don’t mandate who must participate.

  44. This is very sad and disturbing.

    South Carolina drops out of “Race to the Top”

    Story posted 2011.05.25 at 03:54 PM EDT

    By Logan Smith – bio | email

    COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) – South Carolina won’t participate in the third round of a nationwide competition for federal education grants, State Superintendent Mick Zais said on Wednesday.

    By dropping out of the Race to the Top program, South Carolina schools will miss out on a chance at Department of Education grants ranging from $10 million to $50 million. Grants are given to states with innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, according to President Barack Obama.

    “The Race to the Top program expands the federal role in education by offering pieces of silver in exchange for strings attached to Washington,” Zais argued, calling the first two rounds of the competition “top-down directives forcing states to adopt programs favored by Washington.”

    South Carolina participated in the first two rounds of the Race to the Top competition under former Democratic State Superintendent Jim Rex, but did not receive any money from the program. However, Rex was also skeptical about whether the competition’s rewards are worth the strings attached.

    “That’s a lot of money, and we need it,” Rex told the New York Times in 2010. “But spread it over four years, with all the federal expectations that come with it, and you have to ask whether you have the time and capacity to gear up again for the arduous work of filing a new proposal.”

    “More federal money for education will not solve our problems,” Zais, a Republican, added on Wednesday. “Schools need less, not more, federal intrusion to increase student achievement.”

    Reflecting Zais’ concern, President Barack Obama is pushing for a state-friendly rewrite of No Child Left Behind, the nation’s inflexible, testing-heavy education law.

    “We need to promote reform that gets results while encouraging communities to figure out what’s best for their kids,” Mr. Obama said on Saturday in his weekly address. “That why it’s so important that Congress replace No Child Left Behind this year – so schools have that flexibility.”

    The prospect of an overhaul this year seems unlikely, however, given the economic issues dominating the congressional agenda.

    • Sorry, but I see their point. The Dept of Ed has not improved out system, if you ask me. My own daughter was pushed to graduate, though she knew she was not ready and actually tried to fail and return to repeat senior year. We tested her privately and she had 4 DSM codes, including an expressive and receptive processing problem. We knew there were issues but the district did minimal for her because, in her words “I am not a behavior problem”.

      We spend so much money catering to access in other languages rather than teaching them English at a young age. Isn’t that what they always tell us, young children learn languages far easier than older? It is crazy that we do everything in Spanish yet those who move here speaking any other language are left in the dark.

      The fact that NC recognizes that the work load that goes along with these funds do not improve the programs is admirable. We need to go back to our old ways of teaching math, reading, American history, etc. without teaching to all these tests. The stress just adds to the decline. The feds need to be less involved and local/state government need to step up. Who else knows their district and constituents better and what their needs are.

      Good, for you, NC!

  45. This is very exciting news and I hope Oklahoma gets on ball with this opportunity to make even more improvements to early education and care of our youngest children.
    I too, have been a director of and early childhood program geared to low income children for some 29 years. This group of lil ones needs our consideration for helping them get the start they need to become good valued and responsible citizens one day soon.
    When will and how will we know if our state has become a partner with this project?
    What time frame are we looking at for this project to begin?
    I hope under-served early childhood programs get first opportunity to take advantage of this funding.


  46. I am pleased to see grant funding expanded to early childhood centers across the country. I recommend including private and charter school programs with 501 3 C status. Several institutions eagerly serve the communities they are apart of and reach out to every demographic. Support for such programs would improve education opportunities in schools with proven track records of success.

  47. The RTTT ELC is a great opportunity to breath additional life into P-3 as the foundation of a P-20 education system. I would like to offer several recommendations:
    1. Explicitely require a formal role for early childhood advisory councils.
    2. State legistors should have a formal role in the deliberations as well.
    3. States should have all feasible flexibility to tailor their design and spending to the current reality.
    4. Supplantation of current spending on early childhood should be strictly prohibited.
    5. In their applications states should be required to pay particular attention to alignment and transitions between programs and grades.
    6. As part of the application, states should be required to propose how they will sustain this effort in the future.

    Thank you for this opportunity.

  48. Sounds like a good idea, one thing I ask-Please do not make standardized testing a reguirement for earlier learners. At that age Iam sure you are aware, there are alot more ways to achieve success.

  49. I have been a Director of the same childcare facility for working parents for over 30 years. It is certainly gratifying to know that new funding will be geared towards the care and education of the youngest members of the community. We continue to target the skills and milestones necessary for their success in public school and, more importantly, life. I would so appreciate your consideration of their working parents as you plan efficient utilization of new state and federal monies. There is so little available to them as they try to provide services for their young children while remaining employed and productive. They don’t qualify for Head Start and need facilities that operate according to the industrial rather than the public school calendar. Early care and education is expensive if quality staff are to be recruited, trained and retained, giving children and families the consistency they deserve. With additional funding provided to non-profit child care facilities for working families, parents may then be able to access these important services for their children in an equitable responsible manner. A sliding tuition scale that considers income and numbers in household will allow parents to secure the services that will allow them to remain gainfully employed or complete their education. Their children will thrive, supported by quality staff while families attend to their employment responsibilities without further burdening the community.

  50. This opportunity is better than nothing, but it still holds children’s interests hostage to geographic accidents of birth. As a nation, we cannot afford to keep pretending all states have the leadership and resources to ensure all children have access to high-quality early childhood education. Please open this competition to allow applications from non-state entities who are working against prevailing political tides to improve educational and lifetime outcomes for our most vulnerable citizens.

    • We have had 4 centers announce that they are closing due to falling enrollments day care and preschool). With the economy, parents cannot afford to put their three year olds into preschool programs and are waiting until the 4’s to do so. Most centers do not participate in the gov’t subsidized programs as payment is low and slow. More attention (and visits) should also be given to day care programs. Several in our area have been cited for minor issues, and yet their educational proram is sorely lacking and teachers are uneducated in regard to students with special needs and dealing with them in an appropriate manner. NY has an early education masters program focusing on birth to 6. The focus is different than that of a k-6th grade program. Quite frankly, elementary teachers are just not educated on the appropriate developmental practices necessary for 3 to 5 year olds in preschool. States need to acknowledge the importance of EC educators.

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