The Cuomo Administration announced that New York State has submitted a $100 million Early Learning Challenge grant proposal to the federal government as part of the nationwide Race to the Top competition.

Currently, 44% of New York’s third-graders do not meet state reading standards. Research has shown investing in early learning can produce $7 in returns for every $1 spent in the state and a quality early childhood education can help reduce poverty in disadvantaged communities. Through three initiatives, New York’s competitive proposal is designed to increase the number of high quality early childhood learning programs, give teachers the tools they need to understand their students' strengths and weaknesses, help parents become involved in their child's education, and improve the quality of the early childhood workforce.

The challenge proposal is designed to close the achievement gap among New York students through a series of transformative initiatives that will improve early childhood education programs across the state and ensure New York's children have the preparation they need to succeed in elementary school and beyond.

"A strong early childhood education gives our children the foundation they need to succeed in the classroom and be ready for college and future careers," Governor Cuomo said. "Student achievement at all grade levels often rests on the quality of early learning and this challenge proposal demonstrates New York State's commitment to making sure our early childhood education programs are among the best in the nation. Our state's future prosperity depends on a top-rate education system that gives our students the tools they need to be successful and trains the workforce of tomorrow."

Governor Cuomo's office, together with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and Early Childhood Advisory Council, assembled the proposal with close collaboration among state agencies, including the State Education Department, Department of Health, and Office of Mental Health.

QUALITYStarsNY

With the approval of the challenge proposal grant, New York will use QUALITYStarsNY (QSNY), a tool that rates early childhood learning programs based on how they meet common standards. Using QSNY, teachers will have access to valuable feedback to improve performance. The ratings will also empower parents to be savvy consumers in choosing programs for their children.

Kindergarten Readiness Tool

To prepare children for elementary school and place them on track for successful early achievement, the challenge proposal grant will fund the creation of a statewide Kindergarten Readiness Tool (KRT) that will inform teachers’ instruction and helps parents become involved in their child’s development. The KRT is designed to stop the achievement gap before it starts, by helping teachers understand where students strengths and weaknesses are from the moment they start school. Evidence from other states shows that using this type of program has helped narrow the achievement gap between students in different socioeconomic and ethnic groups. For schools, the KRT will focus areas of instruction and help measure progress. For parents, it informs and engages them in supporting their child’s learning and development. The New York State Board of Regents has approved the use of the tool and 29 other states already have similar programs in place.

New York Works for Children

The challenge proposal grant will improve the quality of the early childhood workforce by launching the New York Works for Children program to prepare teachers and ensure educators are equipped with the skills they need to be successful. The program will ensure that early childhood providers throughout the state have access to professional development resources and supports that are tailored to their needs. Additionally, the grant will fund the creation of a workforce registry to better understand early childhood educator qualifications, training and needs.

About the Early Learning Challenge Grant

On May 15, 2011, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge, a new $500 million state-level grant competition. The competition is designed to encourage states to increase access to quality early learning programs for low income and disadvantaged children, design integrated and transparent systems that align their early care and education programs, bolster training and support for the early learning workforce, create robust evaluation systems to document and share effective practices and successful programs, and help parents make informed decisions about care for their children.

New York is one of four states (along with California, Florida, and Texas) eligible to receive up to $100 million, the largest available grant category. This is based on the State's share of the national population of children ages birth through five years old from low-income families. Awards will be made by the end of December 2011.

In June 2010, New York was awarded nearly $700 million in the second round of the original Race to the Top competition that set aside an historic $4 billion for states to improve educational outcomes from kindergarten through college. The competition focused on world class standards and assessments, ensuring effective and qualified teachers for all students, utilizing strong data systems and improving the lowest performing schools in the state.