California was awarded a $52.6 million federal Race to the Top = Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Grant in December 2011 and the California Department of Education, Child Development Division is taking the lead in implementing the activities of this grant. California was among 10 states awarded these funds to improve early learning and development.
California’s RTT-ELC grant implements a unique approach that builds upon California’s local and statewide successes to create sustainable capacity at the local level to meet the needs of our early learners, with a focus on those with the highest needs. It supports a locally driven quality improvement process that encourages regional assessment, goal setting, and monitoring of progress that could lead to real change.
California’s application makes the case for a locally driven approach with three key arguments:
- California has many diverse regions, each with its own politics, economy, and labor market. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work.
- To be successful, local Consortia must maintain control over their own improvement process.
- California must be fiscally responsible and should not agree to any spending commitments beyond the grant period.
CALIFORNIA’S PLAN: LOCAL ACTIVITIES
- Local Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)
Approximately 74 percent of California’s RTT-ELC grant funding will be spent at the local level to support a voluntary network of 17 Regional Leadership Consortia (Consortia), each led by an established organization that is already operating or developing a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS). The 17 Consortia in 16 counties includes: Alameda, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Los Angeles, Merced, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Ventura, and Yolo. The children under five-years-of-age population of these 16 counties is almost 1.9 million which represent almost 70 percent of the total children birth to five in California.
As part of this grant, the Consortia will bring together organizations in their region with the same goal of improving the quality of early learning and will expand their current areas of impact by inviting other programs to join their QRIS or reaching out to mentor other communities. By joining California’s Race to the Top effort, the Consortia voluntarily agree to align their local QRIS to a common “Quality Continuum Framework” (Framework) based on research-based elements and related assessment and improvement tools. Based on federal requirements and Consortia group consensus, the Consortia also agree to implement in their QRISs three common tiers using the Framework as well as additional locally determined tiers. They will set local goals to improve the quality of early learning and development programs in the following three areas:
- Child development and readiness for school;
- Teachers and teaching; and
- Program and environment quality.
The end goal that unites these Consortia is to: Ensure that children in California have access to high quality programs so that they thrive in their early learning settings and succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
CALIFORNIA’S PLAN: STATE ACTIVITIES
In addition to an evaluation to validate the effectiveness of the Consortia QRISs and the three common tiers, California will use a portion of the RTT-ELC grant funds to make the following one-time investments in state capacity:
- Home Visiting: Provide training to local California Home Visiting Program staff on implementing the Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC) practices and on the “Three R’s of Early Childhood: Relationships, Resilience, and Readiness”.
- Screening Tool Distribution: Distribute “Ages and Stages” screening tools and materials to California Department of Education contracted early learning and development programs and local Consortia.
- Curricula Development for Higher Education: Facilitate and coordinate unit-based course alignment for three additional child development unit-based courses: Infant/toddler; children with special needs; and program administration.
- California Collaborative for the Social and Emotional Foundations of Early Learning (CSEFEL): Provide regional support for implementation of the CSEFEL teaching pyramid in local Consortia.
- California Department of Social Services (DSS), Community Care Licensing Division (CCL) Web site: Enhance the DSS, CCL Web site to include educational and training materials for consumers and providers.
- Central Repository for Kindergarten Readiness Information: Update the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) to accommodate the Kindergarten entry assessment information (DRDP-SR).
- Program Administration Scale (PAS)/ Business Administration Scale (BAS) Training for Mentors: Provide “Train-the-trainer” instruction on the PAS and the BAS tools to Director Mentors and Family Child Care Home Mentors to support administrative technical assistance to local Consortia, participating centers, and family child care homes.
- Electronic Training Materials on Existing Content: Develop online training materials for existing content in order to diminish access barriers.
- Comprehensive System of Personnel Development for Early Start: Provide coordinated training for early intervention program staff, and support implementation of best practices in developmental and health screening at the local level in collaboration with the local Consortia.
Posted by Leadership Team member: Patsy Hampton, MRA