Massachusetts has been named one of nine winners in the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge, a $500 million competitive grant program. The state sought $50 million over four years to accelerate its ongoing program to upgrade early childhood education.
AIM supported the application because of a belief among employers that a strong education system is required to keep the knowledge-driven Massachusetts economy growing and efficient.
“The business community in Massachusetts has long advocated greater commitment to early learning as the surest and most cost-effective way to address school readiness gaps and improve outcomes for all children,” AIM noted in its letter of support.
The plan, AIM wrote, “follows the model of our most successful local industries, including comprehensive assessment and data systems, close relationships with customers (communities and families), and a strong emphasis on quality processes and outcomes supported by a commitment to high skills and workforce development. “
In return for the funding, Massachusetts commits to:
- Secure universal participation in the Massachusetts tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), a set of standards designed to elevate the quality of state early care and education systems and to ensure growth as children develop.
- Implement early learning and development standards, including the creation of English Language Development standards for birth to age five.
- Create the Massachusetts Early Learning and Development Assessment System (MELD) from birth to grade three by expanding screening for children and developing a common tool for a kindergarten entry assessment (in its first year, 17,500 kindergarten students or 26 percent of statewide enrollment could be assessed by an estimated 874 teachers or 29 percent of the kindergarten workforce).
- Increase culturally and linguistically appropriate engagement with parents, families, and community members regarding literacy, universal child screening, and other statewide priorities.
- Provide essential support to early educators and enhance their effectiveness (especially for educators whose home language is not English) by providing educational opportunities and targeted professional development opportunities.
- Create greater alignment between early education and grades K-3 to promote healthy development.
AIM looks forward to playing our part in ensuring the success of this undertaking, as we are doing with regard to the $250 million Race to the Top grant for primary-secondary education awarded last year.