Details of Michigan's Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge application

LANSING – Michigan has ambitious, comprehensive plans for funds it might be awarded in the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant competition.

Michigan is eligible for $70 million in the competition, which will funnel a total of $500 million to states to help them build coordinated systems of early learning and development that ensure many more children from low-income families and otherwise disadvantaged children have access to dramatically improved early learning and development programs and are able to start kindergarten with a strong foundation.

Winning states will be notified on or before Dec. 31.

Michigan’s plan includes:

• Statewide implementation of Great Start to Quality, a tiered quality rating and improvement system for all licensed early learning and development programs.

• An assessment of children as they enter kindergarten to provide data needed to close the achievement gap for children with high needs, provide accountability for investments in the Great Start system and improve instructional and educational support in the kindergarten year.

• A child care scholarship pilot project that is estimated to give 780 infants and toddlers and 550 preschool age children who are eligible for the federally funded child care subsidy program in Michigan access to full-day, full-year programs.

• Information and guidance about Michigan’s early learning standards that is useful and helpful to all early learning and development programs, early childhood educators and parents.

• Health consultation for early learning and development programs participating Great Start to Quality.

• Increased coordination and alignment between higher education and professional development investments to assure that all early childhood educators are well prepared to support early learning and development.

• An early learning and development data system.

• Investments in parent engagement, especially with parents of children with high needs.

“It’s all interrelated,” said Joan Blough, leader of Michigan’s application team, transition director for the new Michigan Office of Great Start and Vice President of Great Start System Development and Evaluation for the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.. “The application team had a commitment from the start that our goal was to put together an application based on what Michigan needs.”

In awarding the grants, the challenge program will focus on states that:

• Build successful state systems
• Focus on high quality, accountable programs
• Promote early learning and development
• Build a high quality early childhood education workforce
• Measure outcomes and progress

"The grants encouraged state’s to assess their progress to date in these areas and then make very concrete, specific plans on how to move forward in those areas," said Blough. “Regardless of whether Michigan wins an Early Learning Challenge grant we have a strong plan that will move us in the right direction in terms of improving the school readiness of Michigan’s youngest children.”

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