Policy Resource

Michigan Takes on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

Jun 26, 2018

In December 2013, Michigan received a four-year Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant.

Through this grant, the state directed substantial resources to support several early childhood policy priorities. Three of these priorities were: professional development, higher education, and family support.

In response to a study finding that the majority of children with high needs in child care are cared for in home-based environments, Michigan targeted many of its professional development initiatives specifically toward these providers. The state piloted the use of three types of consultants: health, family engagement, and social-emotional, to help providers improve quality. The state implemented a new parent/community approach to support home-based providers in certain communities. Infants and toddlers make up a large percentage of the children served by home-based providers, so the state’s efforts to improve their knowledge and skills was viewed as having the potential to significantly affect the care that very young children receive.

Michigan also worked with higher education to improve access to, and infant-toddler content of, credit-bearing courses. The state partnered with five community colleges to offer online Child Development Associate (CDA) credential courses, including some with infant-toddler content, which will be transferable toward an associate degree. Additionally, Michigan targeted the new classes to home-based child care providers, who serve the majority of high-need children.

Michigan has initiatives to help families understand their children’s development and how they can support it. The state engaged existing Great Start Parent Coalitions to work collaboratively with other community stakeholders to widely disseminate materials about early childhood learning and development to families across the state. Michigan sought to integrate the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Strengthening Families strength-based framework of protective factors into their services and systems. The state has worked to ensure that its Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) standards reflect the framework and have been approved by Michigan’s State Board of Education.

According to the 2016 annual performance report submitted to the federal government and a 2017 mid-year report, both released in June 2017, Michigan has significant progress toward its goal of improving access to high quality early learning and development programs. Some highlights noted include:

  • 2,449 Great Start to Quality (GSQ) Participation Bonuses ($500 incentives) had been awarded to providers for receiving a GSQ published rating by mid-2017. Because of this, more children with high needs, aged 0-5, will have access to high quality programs ensuring that Michigan’s early learners are developmentally on track and prepared to succeed in school at the time of school entry. Participation bonuses have helped drive increases in participation in GSQ.
  • The state’s focus on home-based providers has paid off; 33% of home-based providers were participating in GSQ by mid-June 2017.
  • Nearly $5 million dollars were distributed to 1,210 programs and providers in the form of GSQ Quality Improvement Grants. Providers used the grants to purchase approved curriculum, create outdoor classrooms, purchase materials and invest in technology to improve communication with families.
  • All initial, specialized consultants have been hired, and forty child care providers have been engaged in specialized consultation services in the areas of social and emotional health, child care health and safety, and family engagement.
  • Michigan hosted a Strengthening Families training for key leaders in early child care, opening opportunities to share the knowledge throughout the early childhood community in Michigan.

Learn more about Michigan 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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