Early Learning Challenge Grant Winners Making Key Gains, Says Ed. Dept.
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 a U.S. Department of Education assessment released Tuesday.
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. Those states are: California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. The Education Department awarded the grants in three waves, between 2012 and 2014.
According to the report:
- More than 72,000 early learning programs are now included in their states' "quality rating and improvement systems," which represents an 87 percent increase since the winning states applied for their grants. QRIS is a voluntary method of rating early-learning programs (generally on a scale from one to four or five stars) and is meant to be a helpful way for parents and early-childhood providers to rank programs.
- Nearly 14,000 early-childhood programs are in the highest-quality tiers of their states' rating systems, which the report says represents a 63 percent increase since the grants were awarded.
- Over 200,000 children with "high needs" (for example, developmentally delayed children, English-language learners, migrants, or children in foster care) are enrolled in state-funded preschool programs that are top-ranked in their states. That represents an increase of more than 127,000 children since the beginning of the grant program, according to the report.
- More than 150,000 children with high needs are enrolled in Head Start/Early Head Start programs in the highest quality tiers of their state's rating system—an increase of more than 78,000 children.
The Education Department is rolling out the news on the Early Learning Challenge as it fights to keep alive another federal initiative, the Preschool Development Grants. In contrast to the broader aims of the Early Learning Challenge Grants, the preschool development grants are specifically for states to develop or expand programs for 4-year-olds.
The preschool development grant money has been zeroed out in congressional budgets under consideration for fiscal 2016. If that cut were to be approved, the 18 states that received preschool development grants would have funding cut two years ahead of schedule.
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