By December 2011, the U.S. government will allocate $500 million to states through the Race to the Top (RTTT) Early Learning Challenge (ELC). The ELC is a new grant competition designed to support comprehensive state plans for raising the quality of early learning programs. Attention is now focused on putting forth ambitious and well-researched proposals to enhance systems that promote early learning and school readiness.
This historic opportunity has come about in part due to ground-breaking research and evaluation conducted over the years. Studies of the Perry Preschool Project and the Carolina Abecedarian Project have helped establish early learning as one of the most high-impact and cost-effective interventions available to policy-makers.
Philanthropic foundations continue to invest in early learning initiatives and to support the use of data to demonstrate impact and build momentum. For example, the BirthToFive Policy Alliance, supported by the Buffett Early Childhood Fund, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, and others provides links to databases, research, and advocacy resources to inform early childhood policy debates.
As government and philanthropy work to create systems that improve outcomes for the youngest and the most vulnerable children, especially low-income and racial minority children, research, evaluation, and data should continue to guide strategies.
Here are three really great sites that display data on early learning and educational outcomes.
• Kids Count Data Center, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, catalogs and displays a wealth of early learning indicators, including pre-school enrollment, reading proficiency levels, and children with a family member who reads to them.
• The Scott Foundation for Public Education’s report and site, 50-State Report on Public Education and Black Males 2010, reveals heart-breaking disparities between black and white male high school graduation rates, state by state.
• The United States Education Dashboard, developed by the U.S. Department of Education, includes indicators of 3- and 4-year old preschool enrollment and 4th graders proficient on NAEP reading and math. (Thanks Matt W!)
To states preparing their applications for the RTTT-ELC: the nation’s future and the promise of social justice are at stake! Good luck!