Policy Resource

Massachusetts Takes on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

Jun 26, 2018

Funding from the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant has allowed Massachusetts an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate early childhood education so that the state’s children have access to high quality early education that will put them on an early path to school success and productive citizenship.

The Massachusetts Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant 2016 Annual Performance Report outlined progress in the following areas:

  • Program Quality – Participation in Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) increased from 46% participation in 2013 to 53% participation in 2016. There is an upward trend of programs reaching the upper tiers of the QRIS (levels 3 and 4).
  • Early Learning and Development Standards – The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) invested RTT-ELC funds to develop the Early Language Development Standards to support dual language learners, ages 2.5 to 5.5 years. The standards were approved by the Board of Early Education and Care in 2016 and translated into multiple languages.
  • Developmental Screening – Massachusetts disseminated the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire for Social Emotional (ASQ-SE) and over the course of the RTT-ELC grant, over 2,100 children were screened using the tool.
  • Birth to Third Grade Alignment – The state continues to award the Birth to Grade Three (B-3) Community Implementation/Planning grants to twelve communities across the state. The Communities used the grants to strengthen the existing B-3 infrastructure such as family engagement, improving alignment and transitions among community based early learning programs and public schools, improving 3rd grade literacy scores, professional development for educators and administrators and school readiness.
  • Family and Community Engagement – EEC partnered with the Massachusetts Community Action Programs (MASSCAP) to develop a Financial Literacy Education online course, including a training module, to support families in gaining long-term economic independence and self-sufficiency skills. Over 394 community agencies have participated in the financial education initiative, serving over 1,200 families. The WGBH Education Foundation has partnered with EEC to develop “Resources for Early Learning,” a comprehensive, early childhood digital library featuring more than 2,500 free media-based tools for teaching and learning. In collaboration with Boston Children’s Museum (BCM), EEC engaged over 119 libraries and 52 museums across the state to provide developmentally appropriate activities for children and their families in the areas of early literacy and school readiness. Massachusetts also engaged with pediatric practices across the state in offering the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) to provide parents with skills for managing disruptive child behaviors.
  • Workforce Development – Massachusetts invested the RTT-ELC grant funds to implement several activities to improve the knowledge, skills and competencies of early educators. Grant funds were also invested into research studies to help the state better understand the workforce development needs of the early educators.
  • System Infrastructure – EEC partnered with other health and human service state agencies to strengthen the capacity of providers to support young children’s growth and development. RTT-ELC grant funds were distributed to five agencies to improve policies on child development within their respective agencies and provide trainings to staff. The following agencies participated: the Department of Children and Families (DCF), Department of Mental Health (DMH), Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), Department of Mental Health (DPH), and the Office of Refugees and Immigrants (ORI).

In 2016, researchers from Wellesley College and UMass Donahue Institute finalized the Massachusetts QRIS Validation study. The researchers made recommendations for the future revisions of the MA QRIS, including:

  • Revising the criteria and verification requirements to ensure the components of quality and the quality levels can be relied on to accurately differentiate program quality
  • Allowing NAEYC-accredited and Head Start programs to enter the QRIS as granted Level 2 programs
  • Reducing lead teacher education qualifications
  • Establishing a re-verification of programs at Levels 3 and 4 every 3 years
  • Strengthening the self-assessment process at Level 2
  • Clarifying formal professional development policy
  • Considering the use of a hybrid QRIS system with blocks at the lower 3 levels and points and the higher 2 levels, creating a 5-level system

Learn more about Massachusetts and how other states are using RTT-ELC funds to strengthen their early childhood systems in ZERO TO THREE’s papers: How Are Early Learning Challenge Grant Targeting Infants and Toddlers and The Early Learning Challenge Grant Is Helping States Better Serve Infants and Toddlers.

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