Delaware RTTT Early Learning Challenge Out of the Starting Gates

February 13th, 2012

Category: Early Childhood Education, News

The hard work has begun; after a short celebration for Delaware’s nearly $50M award for the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge, the Governor’s Office and Departments of Education, Health and Social Services, and Services for Children, Youth, and their Families are beginning to build capacity to implement all our commitments.

Two initiatives were launched in the last week—the beginning of the statewide Kindergarten Entry Assessment and the roll out of Help Me Grow, which is a resource for services for young children.

On February 6, Delaware’s Department of Education  released its first Request for Proposals (RFP) for a research partner to help develop the Kindergarten Entry Assessment, a prominent feature of our application and something specifically highlighted in Governor Markell’s State of the State speech.  The research partner will help the state design an assessment that is appropriate for different populations of students, meets the needs of educators and policymakers, and is not overly burdensome to administer. In the design phase, we will have to address a number of questions, such as:

  • How can we make sure an observation-based assessment is valid and reliable?
  • How can we align it with existing initiatives, including other assessments conducted in Kindergarten classrooms and with DPAS II (which relies on student assessment)?
  • How do we provide a direct assessment (of children that is not observation based) that can be used for policymaking and research purposes?
  • And how do we make sure they are appropriate for kindergarteners from all backgrounds?

To provide assistance, a Kindergarten Entry Assessment Advisory Committee will be formed, and the tool will be piloted in 5% of classrooms beginning in fall 2012, with ongoing evaluation and review. We can also learn from many other states and districts who have already implemented these policies, as well as a great body of research on the topic.

Last week’s Help Me Grow Summit launched the initiative in Delaware (which is funded through national foundations but supported by and integrated with the state’s Early Learning Challenge Race to the Top plan). Help Me Grow is a resource center that United Way will operate through the 2-1-1 line for parents, healthcare providers, and child care centers. Service providers will be identified to help meet young children’s needs, and research demonstrates that earlier detection and treatment produces more effective treatment and fewer costs later in the child’s life.

The state’s strategy is out of the starting gates; now we need to make sure we stay on the track. Look for more RFPs, announcements, and job postings for the grant-funded positions in the coming weeks to help us do just that.

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Madeleine Bayard



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