Policy Resource

Massachusetts Takes on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

Feb 9, 2016

The Massachusetts Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant 2014 Annual Performance Report outlined progress in the following areas:

  • Early Learning and Development Standards - In partnership with the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA) Institute, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin, has continued its ground breaking work to adopt and implement new Early English Language Development standards.

  • Work began with the University of Massachusetts-Boston in 2014 to develop comprehensive preschool and kindergarten standards in the domains of social emotional development and approaches to play and learning.

  • Comprehensive Assessment Systems - For the 2014-2015 school year, the Massachusetts Kindergarten Entry Assessment (MKEA) initiative was expanded to reach 173 school districts across the state, assessing over 36,000 students using a valid and reliable formative assessment tool.

  • Family Engagement and Support - In partnerships with the States transportation agency, the public awareness early childhood initiative, Brain Building in Progress, reached hundreds.

  • In partnership with the Boston Children’s Museum, Massachusetts expanded resources to parents and communities by engaging 56 museums and 119 libraries across the state to provide STEM, early literacy, and school readiness activities to children and families.

  • In 2014, Massachusetts also engaged with twenty-eight pediatric practices across the state in offering the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) to provide parents with skills for managing disruptive child behaviors.

  • Supporting Early Educators Competencies - Over the past year, building off the success of the Post-Master’s Certificate Program in Early Education Leadership Research, Policy and Leadership, which graduated two cohorts to date, the University of Massachusetts-Boston has created a doctoral degree program in early education, the first of its kind in the state.

Other ELC initiatives the state has engaged in that are particularly important to infants, toddlers and their families include:

  • Providing grants to more than twenty communities to implement evidence-based early literacy models to help parents support their 0-5 year old children’s literacy skills;

  • Distributing ASQ and ASQ:SE toolkits to the 99 Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) network grantees, organizations that provide informal supports to families for early childhood development. Training on how the tools can be used to help parents understand the science and domains of development and to link families to community opportunities to support their children’s needs was provided to CFCE organizations.


  • Although Massachusetts made much progress towards meeting its RTT-ELC goals during 2014, the state’s budget spend-down rate remains a challenge.
  • Despite the state’s efforts in implementing several strategies to improve supports and training for the teachers and administrators who are participating in MKEA, there remains resistance from school districts and other stakeholders about MKEA.

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: http://www.zerotothree.org/public-policy/elc-it-article-for-baby-monitor.pdf

The Early Learning Challenge Grant Is Helping States Better Serve Infants and Toddlers: http://www.zerotothree.org/policy/docs/elc-grant-update.pdf

Updated January 2016

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