Policy Resource

Ohio Takes on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

Feb 9, 2016

In December 2011, Ohio was awarded a four-year 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 wanted to:

  • Collaborate with Maryland on a comprehensive assessment system that would include development of a new formative assessment for children birth to three. The two states also planned to develop training modules and professional development for the administration of this and other screening instruments.
  • Review the Infant Toddler Guidelines to strengthen the foundational skills relative to approaches to learning and aligned to the Pre-Kindergarten standards. In 2011, the Pre-Kindergarten Content Standards were undergoing revision to incorporate all domains of school readiness.
  • Implement a pilot eliminating family co-payments for families receiving child care subsidies who choose highly rated ELD programs.

This article has been updated each year to highlight some of Ohio’s ELC efforts that have impacted infants, toddlers and families.

As of 2013, Ohio made the following progress towards its proposed ELD systems:

  • Local Early Childhood Mental Health (ECMH) boards hired ECMH consultants to work with providers serving children with high needs and to support early childhood professionals’ use of standards and assessments related to social and emotional development and approaches toward learning.
  • The State Board of Education adopted comprehensive early learning guidelines (ELG) for children birth to kindergarten entry in October 2012. The new standards replace the Infant and Toddler Guidelines and Pre-Kindergarten Content Standards that the state previously used. They address all essential domains of school readiness and serve as the foundation for the revised quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), comprehensive assessment system, and professional development system.
  • Ohio began revising the state’s Core Knowledge and Competencies (CKCs) to meet the newly revamped TQRIS model and new ELGs. The state is developing training that will be used when the CKCs are rolled out. Plans are also underway to develop formative instruction modules, which will support implementation of appropriate activities based on ongoing assessment related to each domain of the standards.
  • Ohio enacted legislation requiring the use of a common unique identification number for all children birth to five in publicly funded programs. The unique identification number stays with children through post-secondary school in district settings.

As of 2014, Ohio made the following progress toward its proposed ELD systems:

  • A series of new professional development modules were developed in support of current early learning initiatives occurring in Ohio. By March 2015, trainers will all be able to provide face-to-face professional development in Screening and Assessment, Technology in the Classroom, and English Language Learners.
  • Ohio, in partnership with Maryland, designed a new Early Childhood Comprehensive Assessment System that includes a formative assessment for children ages 36-72 months, a kindergarten readiness assessment, a technology system, and professional development modules.
  • Ohio has designed a professional development series to support the use of assessment in programs serving children from birth through kindergarten entry. Training modules were completed that address the purpose of assessments and how assessments support positive learning experiences for children birth through kindergarten entry.
  • Beginning in fall 2015, all programs participating in Step Up To Quality that are rated at three stars or higher will be required to enter child assessment data into the new Ohio Early Childhood Comprehensive Assessment System (EC-CAS), using each child’s unique identifier. The use of the EC-CAS and the unique identifier will allow for the examination of child progress and evaluation of kindergarten readiness for children who are enrolled in programs that are highly rated.

As of 2015, Ohio made the following progress toward its proposed ELD systems:

  • Ohio state legislature put a requirement to participate in the state’s tiered quality rating and improvement system into law, with timeline benchmarks, to establish a sustainable system for the improvement of early care and development programs.
  • The goals of the Early Learning Challenge Grant were met throughout Year Four for programs entering Step Up to Quality, programs being rated as high quality, and the number of children with needs being serviced in high quality settings. More than 3,200 programs are now enrolled into Step Up to Quality, an impressive 50% increase since Year Three.
  • Ohio also accomplished a record number of professional development opportunities (approximately 1,610); opportunities which were attended by over 19,600 early childhood professionals throughout the year.
  • Other accomplishments included progress on grant activities around Family and Community Engagement, the Ohio Child Licensing and Quality System Development, and the agreement between state agencies to create and share data for early childhood policy decisions.

In their final progress report summarizing the overall impact of the ELC, Ohio noted the following achievements:

  • High-Quality Early Care and Development: Ensuring that all early childhood settings are safe, healthy and provide high-quality education to Ohio’s most vulnerable children;
  • Increasing access for children with high needs: Ensuring that children with disabilities, children who are English language learners, or children living in families with low incomes have access to early childhood programs of the highest quality;
  • Investing in the early childhood workforce: Making professional development opportunities available to all early childhood professionals, regardless of setting;
  • Stabilizing our infrastructure: Building the state’s ability to collect valid and reliable data in a seamless, efficient and effective way;
  • Parent and caregiver engagement: Connecting children and families with information and resources to fully engage in their children’s educations from the earliest years; and
  • Comprehensive assessment: Creating one preK to kindergarten system that allows children to be assessed for strengths and needs at the earliest ages across all the essential areas of school readiness, so that all children start school ready to learn and succeed.

Learn more about Ohio and how other states used 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.

Updated May 2018.

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