Policy Resource

Georgia Takes on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

Sep 16, 2016

Explore how Georgia will create four Early Education Empowerment Zones (E3Z) in areas serving large percentages of students with high needs.

In December, 2013, Georgia became one of six states to receive a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant in Phase 3 of the program. Through this grant, the state is directing substantial resources to support several early childhood policy priorities. Two of these target areas are: Early Learning Guidelines and Early Education Empowerment Zones (E3Z).

Georgia adopted new Early Learning Guidelines (ELG) that included infants and toddlers before receiving the RTT-ELC grant, and has used RTT-ELC funds to roll them out. The state has created resources, tools, and professional development based on the ELGs. Moreover, Georgia has aligned them with national standards for English Language Learners using the WIDA Early English Language Development Standards Framework, and created professional development tools for early childhood educators working with English Language Learners. Finally, the state has disseminated their ELG to parents and professionals to ensure they are used to support young children’s healthy development.

E3Zs are regions of the state that are working with the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) to pilot early education and care initiatives. In 2014, Georgia identified four E3Zs based off measures such as education, poverty, student standardized test scores, and family characteristics. The zones are in areas serving large percentages of students with high needs. A birth to 8 team has been established and is beginning to work with the E3Z to identify community-level strategies. Georgia has begun to implement the Great Start Georgia (GSG) program to bring evidence-based home visiting services to the E3Z. A child care center-based home visiting program was established in each of Georgia’s four E3Zs. The program is established through partnership with a licensed child care learning center that serves as a hub for GSG services. There have been delays to full implementation of this program as funds for evidence-based home visiting services were not released in 2014 due to a delay in identifying the E3Z.

In addition to the center-based home visiting program, a primary focus within the E3Z is to increase the accessibility of high-quality early learning and development programs. The state increased the number of programs enrolled in Quality Rated and will continue support for programs attempting to enroll. In June 2016, Georgia had evaluated 1,040 child care programs, with an additional 1,631 programs in the Quality Rated process. Child care programs that participate in Quality Rated and receive two or three out of three stars are eligible for an E3Z Child Care Expansion Grant to expand existing child care centers and to create new child care jobs.

Finally, Georgia is expanding its coaching and mentoring system to support infant-toddler teachers located in the E3Z and other rural areas serving high percentages of children with high needs. Services are provided in English and Spanish. Georgia also expanded the state’s incentives and scholarships programs for early learning educators.

Learn more about Georgia and how other states are using RTT-ELC funds to strengthen their early childhood systems in ZERO TO THREEs paper, Meeting the Challenge: How the Newest Early Learning Challenge Grantees Can Meet the Needs of Infants and Toddlers.

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