Earlier this week, the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative hosted a briefing examining the The Early Learning Challenge Grant applications. Panelists included early childhood leaders from North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, and Colorado, who were present to discuss their Early Learning Challenge projects.
The Early Learning Challenge Fund ELCF was carved out of the Race to the Top program in the FY2011 appropriations process. It made available $500 million in competitive funds for state grantees to raise the quality of their early childhood systems and align it with their K-12 and higher education systems. On December 16, it was announced that nine of the thirty-seven state applications had been selected, including those submitted by California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington.
Panelists from states receiving the ELCF funding described their planned initiatives. Themes across the plans included cross-public and public-private collaboration, birth through five components, outcomes assessments, integrated data systems, targeting high risk populations, developmental screenings, professional education, and overall a strong attention to quality. Specifics of the state plans can be found in the, Stepping Up to the Challenge report, which compiles the grant application profiles.
While Colorado missed receiving funding by only a few points on their application, they were in attendance to discuss the steps they are taking to improve the foundations of their early learning system in order to get to the next tier of development. Although funding limited their ability to implement their proposed plan, the process encouraged them to evaluate their current system and create an improvement plan that is ready to launch once resources become available.