Policy Resource

Rhode Island Takes on the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

Feb 9, 2016

In December 2011, Rhode Island 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 proposed to:

  • Develop Early Learning Standards for Infants and Toddlers. Along with the Preschool Early Learning Standards, they would form the basis for program standards, workforce knowledge and competency frameworks, curricula, and child assessments.
  • Offer program quality improvement contracts (ranging from $1,000 to $10,000) to ELD programs serving high numbers of children receiving child care subsidies.
  • Expand Watch Me Grow to provide reliable developmental screening in primary health care settings in communities with large numbers of high-need children.

As of 2013, Rhode Island has made the following progress towards its proposed ELD systems.

  • The state developed new Early Learning and Development Standards for Children Birth to Five. The Board of Education voted to adopt them in May 2013. The state had originally planned to create standards for infants and toddlers separately from its pre-K standards, but decided that a single document with a birth-to-five continuum would better allow parents and practitioners to understand and support young children’s development.
  • In recognition that child care providers serving infants have higher costs, Rhode Island structured its quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) Program Quality Awards to support infant care for children up to 18 months old. Centers and homes that offer infant care at BrightStars levels 3, 4, and 5 are eligible to receive Program Quality Awards. The awards are intended to offset increased operating costs for programs at higher quality levels.
  • The state began accepting applications for Interim Quality Improvement grants in April 2013. Licensed child care centers and public preschool programs can apply for up to $30,000 and licensed family child care homes can apply for up to $5,000 to support their quality improvement plans. The Departments of Education and Human Services will jointly award grants until the $400,000 funding pool is expended; in July 2013, the Departments intended to make approximately $5 million available for a second round of funding.
  • Part C Early Interventionists are piloting the use of Teaching Strategies Gold (TSG), a formative assessment tool used for ongoing planning and monitoring. The state hopes use of TSG will improve the transition of children from Part C to Part B. TSG is already used by all preschool special education classrooms and state-funded pre-kindergarten classrooms.

Learn more about Rhode Island and how other states are using RTT-ELC funds to strengthen their early childhood systems in ZERO TO THREEs papers:

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