Third round of competition focuses on early childhood education.

Mississippi may get another shot at Race to the Top! Congress approved $700M for a new round of Race to the Top in the FY2011 Budget deal this past April. The funds will be used to create two grant competitions.  $200M will create a “second chance” competition for the nine finalists that didn’t win an award during the Round Two RTTT competition. Two southern states, Louisiana and South Carolina, will be eligible for this competition.The remaining $500M will be used to create the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (ELC) competition. All 50 states are eligible to compete, and awards will range from $50M – $100M.  The draft criteria were made public today, and according to the EdWeek blog, a winning state must:

  • Come up with and use early-learning and development standards for children, along with assessments;
  • Develop and administer kindergarten-readiness tests, and develop rating systems for early-education programs;
  • Demonstrate cooperation across the multiple agencies that touch early-childhood issues (MDE, and MSDH, for example), and establish statewide standards for early childhood educators;
  • Have a good tract record on early learning, and an ambitious plan to improve these programs; and
  • Make sure early learning and pre-kindergarten data are incorporated into its longitudinal data system.
Certain elements of the ELC could give Mississippi an advantage.  Because we’re one of only a few states in the nation – and the only one in the South – without state-funded pre-Kindergarten, an ambitious early learning plan could be very attractive to grant reviewers. Additionally, President Obama has stated that preference will be given to states with “large rural populations”.  This was done in an effort to address criticism that the unique challenges of education reform in rural states were ignored during the first two rounds of Race to the Top. Of course, these advantages won’t matter if Mississippi once again fails to show up for the competition. We failed to submit a Round 1 application in January 2010, and our Round 2 application fell well short in terms of innovation and overall quality.This new round of Race to the Top has been designed to address an area of critical need in our state. Designing a competitive plan should be a top priority.

Over the past year, Mississippi First has been involved in research around a “collaborative delivery model” for pre-Kindergarten. This model expands access to pre-K through the coordination of local, state and federal resources, along with partnerships with school districts and other early education providers such as Head Start and private childcare. Such a model could be a strong component to Mississippi’s ELC plan.

Applications for the Early Learning Challenge will be available at the end of the summer, and awards will be made at the end of the year.  We will keep you informed about new developments in the coming weeks.

UPDATE (7/11/): Draft Criteria for ELC Posted on
The draft criteria for the Early Learning Challenge (ELC) has been added to the U.S. Department of Education’s website.  You can click here to download the document.  The final draft should be posted in the coming weeks.

Important sections of the draft criteria:


Below is a list of items that must be addressed within the details of the state plan:

Absolute Priorities – Items that MUST be addressed to be eligible for an award.

1. Using Early Learning and Development Standards and Kindergarten Entry Assessments to Promote School Readiness

2. Using Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement Systems

Competitive Preference Priority – Items that can earn a state additional points if addressed

3. Including all early Learning and Development Programs in the Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System

Invitational Priorities – Include no additional points, but could strengthen the overall application.

4. Sustaining Program Effects in the Early Elementary

5. Encouraging Private Sector Support


Selection Criteria

Below are the criteria that will be used to evaluate each state’s ELC application.

A. Successful State Systems

B. Promoting Early Learning and Development Outcomes for Children

C. High-Quality, Accountable Programs

D. A Great Childhood Education Workforce

Potential Award for Mississippi

The maximum amount of money a state can be awarded through the ELC is based on each state’s percentage of the nation’s young children (birth to age five) from low-income families.  Based on this formula, Mississippi would receive up to $50 million for a successful application.

More updates will come soon!


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