Policy Resource

Kentucky Takes on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

Jul 9, 2017

In December, 2013, Kentucky became one of six states to receive a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant. Through this grant, the state is directing substantial resources to support three early childhood policy priorities: high-quality early learning environments, family support, and access to data.

In order to build high-quality learning environments, Kentucky redesigned and shifted its quality rating and improvement system (known as STARS for KIDS NOW) to include all public preschool, Head Start, and early learning and development programs. Since 2016 all licensed providers have been required to participate and display their rating in a prominent location so that parents can determine their quality-level.

Kentucky also used the RTT-ELC to invest in workforce development initiatives. The state expanded the personnel pipeline by embedding requirements for state and nationally recognized credentials (CDA and Certificate of Eligibility for KY Child Care Credential) into public high school curriculum. The courses are now integrated into the new state career lattice so that students who take them is not only be prepared to work in the field after graduation, but also be eligible for professional development supports including scholarships.

To create a foundation for family support, Kentucky integrated the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Strengthening Families strength-based framework of protective factors into their services and systems. As of 2016 more than 12220 professionals had taken the online module on the Strengthening Families framework. Kentucky also put in place initiatives to help parents understand their children’s development and how they can support it. In partnership with private funders, the state expanded the Toyota Born Learning Academies—school-based workshops for low-income families with young children that offer parents strategies they can use at home to maximize their child’s early learning and development—to reach more than 150 elementary schools over the grant period.

Learn more about Kentucky’s RTT-ELC grant by reading their most recent progress report. Learn more about Kentucky and how other states are using RTT-ELC funds to strengthen their early childhood systems in ZERO TO THREE’s paper, Meeting the Challenge: How the Newest Early Learning Challenge Grantees Can Meet the Needs of Infants and Toddlers.

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