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Georgia Takes on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge
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 and development standards that included infants and toddlers just before receiving the RTT-ELC grant, and has used RTT-ELC funds to roll them out. The state created resources, tools, and professional development based on the standards. Moreover, Georgia 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 standards 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 was established and worked with each E3Z to identify community-level strategies. The Great Start Georgia (GSG) framework, including evidence-based home visiting, is being implemented through a partnership with a licensed child care learning center in each E3Z. This expansion includes a central intake component that provides community outreach, identification and referral of families to GSG, intake screening, parent education, and linkage of families to resources and services. 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 its quality rating and improvement system, 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 of up to $100,000 to expand existing child care centers and to create new child care jobs. In 2016, DECAL awarded the Child Care Expansion Grant to 16 programs over four rounds of grant applications, totaling over 1.1 million. The expansion grants will support an additional 86 early childhood jobs and promote the quality of child care for an additional 638 infants and toddlers.
Georgia also used its RTT-ELC to expand 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.
Learn more about Georgia’s RTT-ELC grant by reading the state’s most recent progress report.
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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