Policy Resource

Illinois Takes on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

Jan 9, 2016

In 2012, Illinois reapplied for and was awarded the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant and proposed the following targets to improve its early learning and development (ELD) systems.

The state planned to:

  • Develop in-person and web-based training on the newly revised Early Learning Guidelines (for children birth to three) and provide train-the-trainer sessions for staff in child care resource and referral (CCR&R) agencies, the Illinois Resource Center, the Illinois Birth to Three Institute, members of the Illinois Trainers Network, and those who provide training to Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
  • Select six to eight Communities of Concentrated High Need (CCHN) to engage in a local planning process to increase the number and percentage of children with high needs enrolled in high-quality early learning and development programs. CCHN may choose from a list of strategies developed by the state, including providing scholarships to educators to obtain the Gateways to Opportunity Level 5 Infant Toddler Credential. RTT-ELC funds would support implementation of the selected strategies.
  • Add a Quality Specialist to each of the 16 regional CCR&R agencies to support quality improvement in early learning and development programs.

To date, the state has designated 7 CCHNs as Innovation Zones. Each Innovation Zone was selected based on level of concentrated need; presence of providers with a demonstrated interest in quality improvement; a history of collaboration among early education providers; and strong local support for early learning. Community groups are engaged in planning. These sites are pilots for future implementation of new state strategies and policies.

To learn how other states are using RTT-ELC funds to strengthen their early childhood systems in ZERO TO THREEs paper: The Early Learning Challenge Grant Is Helping States Better Serve Infants and Toddlers: http://www.zerotothree.org/policy/docs/elc-grant-update.pdf

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