It's official! Washington will apply for Race to the Top

Governor Chris Gregoire has made it official: Washington will apply for the federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant competition. If successful, our state could receive up to $60 million to help build an early learning system that prepares children for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Governor Gregoire notified the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services last Friday, July 15, of Washington's intent to apply. She designated the Department of Early Learning (DEL) as the lead agency for Washington's application. DEL has created a webpage to keep the early learning community informed about progress on RTT-ELC.

RTT-ELC is meant to help states raise the quality of early learning programs so that children start school ready to succeed. The draft guidelines issued earlier this month show that successful states will demonstrate use of state early learning guidelines, kindergarten entry assessments, and quality rating and improvement systems. Washington is moving forward with all three:

  • We are in the process of reviewing and revising our early learning guidelines (which have been called the Early Learning and Development Benchmarks). 
  • We have finished piloting our kindergarten entry assessment program, WaKIDS, and will begin rolling it out more broadly in the 2011-2012 school year.
  • We have finished a pilot of our QRIS in partnership with Thrive by Five Washington, and are beginning to take it to scale around the state to help child care providers improve the quality of care they offer to children and families--and help families understand what quality looks like.
In Washington, we are at a critical juncture for creating a statewide early learning system--despite the budget crisis, we've found federal, state and private funding to support early learning. We have a 10-year state Early Learning Plan, and strong partnerships with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Thrive by Five Washington and other public and private entities. This grant would help push us to do even more--and that's a welcome push!