Race to Top application is an opportunity beyond money

LANSING - For the team putting together Michigan’s official application, the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge represents an opportunity beyond money.

“The challenge has provided an opportunity because of how it's organized into five key areas of reform that will help us assess where we are as a state,” said Joan Blough, leader of the team and transition director for the new Office of Great Start. “Whatever comes or doesn't come from the challenge, we could still implement these plans if we get income from another source. It’s not like we would change our minds.”

The federal challenge will funnel a total of $500 million to states to help them build a coordinated system of early learning and development that ensures 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.

Michigan is seeking $70 million in the challenge. Winning states will be notified on or before Dec. 31. The application deadline is Oct. 19.

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 encourage you to assess where you’re at then to be able to make very concrete, specific plans on how to move forward in those areas,” said Blough, who is Vice President of Great Start System Development and Evaluation for the Early Childhood Investment Corporation. “It's their theory of change that if you are working on these areas to build early learning and development systems then you’ll be most effective.”

For more details on Michigan's Race to the Top process, visit the Michigan Dept. of Education Office of Great Start page by clicking here.