Delaware Submits Ambitious Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Application
On October 19, 2011 Delaware submitted an ambitious application for a roughly $50 million share of the $500 million federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) competitive grant. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Delaware was one of 35 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico to submit an application.
Delaware’s plan builds on the momentum of the state’s recent commitment of $22 million in annual funds to support high-quality early childhood programming for high-needs children as well as the state’s exceptional foundation – nationally recognized health and nutrition licensing standards; implementation of a tiered QRIS, Delaware Stars; strong public-private partnerships; and legislative oversight by the Interagency Resource Management Committee (IRMC) and Early Childhood Council (ECC). The key goals presented in the application are to accelerate advancement of the state’s system of supports and services for young children and their families and enhance current practice to become an outstanding national model.
These goals will be achieved through targeted focus on four specific activity areas:
- Addressing the “whole child” health and development needs of children 0-5 through the extension of Help Me Grow (Delaware’s statewide framework for coordinating supports to children and families), support for the state’s evidence-based home visiting programs, as well as the expansion of developmental screening of all children participating in Stars programs and mental health consultation and nutrition support to early childhood programs.
- Building a professional and effective workforce through a compensation strategy – targeted to programs serving children with high needs – that provides recruitment bonuses of $1,000 to qualified educators and wage enhancements of up to $4,000 as incentive for improvement and retention.
- Strengthening Stars, Delaware’s QRIS, as the mechanism to drive high-quality programming through increasing purchase of care reimbursement rates, implementing a tiered reimbursement policy for programs participating in Stars, enhancing technical assistance, designing alternate pathways to participation as well as launching a Stars communications campaign. 100% Stars participation is anticipated for licensed child care centers, Head Start and Early Head Start programs and state-funded pre-k (ECAP), with aggressive targets also set for family child care providers and other state-regulated programs.
- Executing a birth to age 8 approach to school readiness through the development of “readiness teams” aligning early childhood to K-12 and implementation of a phased kindergarten entry assessment pilot with full implementation by fall 2015.
The bold programs and policies presented in Delaware’s application are supported by stakeholder groups from across the state; 43 letters of support were submitted from early care and education providers, K-12 districts and teachers, higher education institutions, private sector partners, community partners and government officials among others. The foundation, plan for advancement, and support included in Delaware’s application will lend positively to the state’s competitiveness in the national landscape. Funding decisions are expected to be announced by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services in December with funds to be released by the end of the calendar year.