Michigan not among states awarded Early Learning Challenge grants

LANSING –Despite learning today that Michigan is not one of nine states awarded a federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant, the work to build a system of early learning and development to ensure all of Michigan’s children are ready for success when they enter kindergarten will continue.

“Michigan’s application team did a fantastic job of demonstrating Michigan’s long history of commitment on behalf of young children and families and our track record of successful innovation, 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.

“What we learned in this process is that the work outlined in this grant application must happen if Michigan is going to change the trajectory of these vulnerable young children and their school success.”

According to an Associated Press report, grants totaling $500 million were awarded to California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington. Thirty five states, Puerto Rico, and Washington D.C. applied.

The Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge is designed to help states build coordinated systems of early learning and development to ensure many more children from low-income families and otherwise disadvantaged children have access to dramatically improved early learning and development programs.

A second round of Early Learning Challenge grants is possible, according to federal officials.

At the White House award announcement Friday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said all applicants showed “tremendous dedication and drive to build stronger foundations and create greater opportunities for more children. Their work will help lead the way in ensuring excellent early learning and support for every child."

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said “a strong educational system is critical not just for our children but also for our nation's economic future. The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge takes a holistic approach to early education, promotes innovation, and focuses on what it takes to help put young children on the path of learning, opportunity, and success."

Judy Y. Samelson, CEO of the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, said Michigan has much to build upon. 

The Early Childhood Investment Corporation, for instance, already has launched Great Start to Quality, Michigan’s tiered quality rating and improvement system that employs progressive standards for child care programs to rate and improve their level of care. In addition, the state’s Great Start network is making significant strides building local systems to address communities’ unique needs.

In the health arena, the Michigan Children’s Health Access Program is demonstrating promising results and expanding. Also, more children are getting critical development screenings. In the early learning arena, strong standards are in place, and creative new ways of addressing child care needs are being explored. In addition, significantly increased parent engagement is evident across the state. All of this, according to Samelson, is the result of increasing partnerships with state departments and the private sector.

“That’s just a small part of what has come together in the past few years from working together in Michigan,” Samelson said.

Michigan’s application included funding for an array of early childhood supports aimed at increasing school readiness, particularly among at-risk children, including an assessment of children as they enter kindergarten, a child care scholarship program, an early learning and development data system, investments in parent engagement and more. (For details on Michigan's plan, visit the Michigan Office of Great Start.)

In the health arena, the Michigan Children’s Health Access Program is demonstrating promising results and expanding. Also, more children are getting critical development screenings. In the early learning arena, strong standards are in place, and creative new ways of addressing child care needs are being explored. In addition, significantly increased parent engagement is evident across the state. All of this, according to Samelson, is the result of increasing partnerships with state departments and the private sector. 

“We have a job to do,” said Samelson. “Not getting this particular grant doesn’t change that. Michigan’s children need us to get this done. The future of our state requires that we get it done. We’ll have to work harder to get the resources to make it happen. So be it. Given the dedication of the application team, I’m pretty sure they’re already on it.”

Media coverage

Michigan gets shut out of Race to the Top dollars again - Grand Rapids Press
Michigan denied 'Race to the Top' funds again - Detroit News
Surprises in nine winners of Early Learning Challenge - Early Ed Watch

Surprises in winners of the Early Learning Challenge

 

 

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