Policy Resource

Oregon Takes on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

Feb 9, 2016

In 2012, Oregon reapplied for and was awarded the 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’s application included the following goals:

  • Improve the rates of health, oral health, developmental, and family risk screening at standard intervals. Strategies would include identifying training needs and curriculum for different audiences who will administer screening, assessing community capacity and resources, and developing referral protocols for follow-up screening.
  • Redesign its quality rating improvement systems (QRIS), expanding it from three tiers to five. A number of incentives and supports would be utilized to promote participation and advancement to higher-quality tiers, including specialized technical assistance, coaching, and vouchers for educational materials.
  • Assign unique child identifiers to children with high needs participating in publicly-funded early learning and development programs and receiving child care subsidies.
  • Use family support managers to connect families and children with high needs to appropriate resources and high-quality early learning and development programs.

Oregon continues to strive for success and excellence in developing a world class education system that starts early and achieves results. In 2010, the state adopted the 40-40-20 goal: by 2025, 40% of adult Oregonians will earn a bachelor’s degree or higher, 40% will earn an associate’s degree or post-secondary credential, and 20% will earn a high school diploma or equivalent.

As a phase two recipient of just over $30 million RTT-ELC dollars, Oregon has been working hard to create and implement successful projects to support the accomplishment of these goals.

Early learning developments, accomplishments, and challenges are organized through the lens of the five key areas of reform defined by the federal RTT-ELCG competition:

  1. Establishing Successful State Systems
  2. Defining High-Quality, Accountable Programs
  3. Promoting Early Learning and Development Outcomes for Children
  4. Supporting A Great Early Childhood Education Workforce
  5. Measuring Outcomes and Progress

2016 Update

At the mid-point in the grant, Oregon had made a number of achievements toward its goals, including:

  • The establishment of Oregon’s Early Learning Hubs, community-based and community-owned coordinators of early learning services, creates a strong local infrastructure to accomplish our RTT-ELCG goals.
  • Oregon’s Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (TQRIS) is creating a defined pathway for quality improvement that is critical for systems transformation. A focus on highly qualified staff, strong educational components, developmentally appropriate environments, and quality family supports is guided by the accepted standards of the TQRIS. As of the end of April, 2014, 785 programs attended an Increasing Quality Training program, and of those 546 are Commitment to Quality Designees. These programs are working with the State to provide safe, quality, affordable and accessible childcare. Together Oregon is serving 19,931 children in Quality Rated Programs.
  • The statewide implementation of the kindergarten assessment in all 197 of Oregon’s school districts is an important catalyst for establishing a measurable, concrete link between early learning and K-12. These data is used to identify gaps, assist in decisions on how to allocate resources, and monitor statewide progress.
  • The confluence of transformations occurring in Oregon in the areas of health, human services, early learning, and K-12 education has created opportunities for alignment, coordination and shared accountability across systems.
  • The creation and adoption of the Equity Lens developed by the Oregon Education Investment Board is driving changes in how early learning programs address the myriad needs of diverse children across the state. An intentional focus on equity as both a guiding principle and standard is essential to meeting our early learning system goals and assuring accountability to our most vulnerable populations.

2018 Update

In 2016, Oregon continued its trajectory to creating a dynamic early learning system capable of anticipating and addressing the myriad of diverse needs of its children and families. Efforts continue to be guided by the state’s 40-20-20 goals. Oregon’s early learning system aims to support children to learn and thrive by focusing on three statutory goals:

  1. Children enter kindergarten ready to succeed;
  2. Families are healthy, stable and attached;
  3. The early learning system is coordinated, aligned and family-centered

Through funding that reinforces essential infrastructure, the RTT-ELC has been integral to Oregon’s efforts to meet the goals outlined above by cultivating quality early learning environments where cross-systems coordination occur, staff are well trained, culturally-responsive practices are the norm and parents are engaged. Throughout 2016, Oregon has built an equity-driven system by operationalizing the vision of an early learning system where equitable outcomes are achieved and each child and family has access to meaningful learning opportunities.

Learn more about Oregon and how other states are using RTT-ELC funds to strengthen their early childhood systems in ZERO TO THREEs paper, The Early Learning Challenge Grant Is Helping States Better Serve Infants and Toddlers.

Updated May 2018.

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