Focus on ELC Focus Areas: E-Z Does it and Competitive Preference
Now we look at ELC Focus Area E, which was about systems for measuring outcomes and progress. Specifically, Focus Area E asked states to address one or both of two criteria:
• Kindergarten Entry Assessment [E(1)]
• Early Learning Data Systems [E(2)]
This criterion was also worth 40 points, divided evenly among the number of criteria the state chose to address. But there's an important twist!
ELC also included a competitive preference priority linked to Kindergarten Entry Assessment: Specifically, states that answered criterion E(1) and earned 70% of the total possible points could receive an additional 10 "competitive preference priority" points, which both created an incentive for states to address the kindergarten entry criterion and made this section worth more points for states that performed well on it.
Because of this incentive, all but 2 states (Maine and Missouri) chose to address the kindergarten entry criterion, which required states to establish a statewide kindergarten entry assessment to measure children's learning and development at kindergarten entry, across all domains of school readiness and using appropriate measures. 30 states, including Puerto Rico, addressed the data systems criterion.
Among the 35 states (+ D.C. and Puerto Rico) addressing criterion E(1), the median state earned 64% of possible points on this section. State scores ranged from 32-90% of total points possible. Maryland, whose statewide Kindergarten entry system many observers believed the ELC requirements were modeled off of, earned near perfect points on this section. Ohio, Minnesota, California, Florida, Washington, and Connecticut also performed well.
All told, 18 states scored well enough on criterion E(1) to earn the 10 competitive preference points for kindergarten entry assessment--a fact that should perplex mathematically astute readers, since this just over half of those addressing the criterion, and the median score of 64% of total points fell below the 70% cut-off to earn the competitive preference points. The explanation is due to how the ELC application and competitive preference priority were scored. Each ELC application was scored by 5 individual peer reviewers, each of whom assigned their own score to each criterion (with scores often varying significantly among reviewers). The total number of points a state received in each section was based on the average of the 5 peer reviewers' scores. But, when it came to the competitive preference priority, each peer reviewer assigned the state a "yes" or "no" on the priority, based on how the individual reviewer scored the state on criterion E(1). If at least 3 peer reviewers gave the state a "yes", then the state won the competitive preference priority points, whether or not its collective score for the section was above 70% of total points. Thus, several states earned the competitive preference points even though their final score on section E(1) was lower than 70% of total points. These states include: Hawaii, New Jersey, New Mexico, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Since none of these states scored enough points on the other criteria to win the competition, it probably doesn't matter much, but it's still interesting. All of the winning states addressed section E(1) and the competitive preference priority, and all but one (Delaware) scored high enough on this section to receive the 10 competitive preference priority points.
Across the 30 states addressing criterion E(2), the median state earned 73% of total possible points, with a range from 33-96%. Minnesota and Maryland earned the highest marks on this section.
Had the ELC competition been scored solely based on states' performance on Focus Area E, the winners would have been: Maryland, Minnesota, Ohio, California, Florida, Washington, Maine, Rhode Island, Colorado. Minnesota's strong performance on this section helps account for how it was able to win an ELC grant despite relatively weak performance in the core areas of the application.