For Immediate Release - May 25, 2011

Massachusetts to Compete for Race to the Top Early Education Funds

BOSTON - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - Massachusetts Education Secretary Paul Reville today announced that the Commonwealth will compete for the newly unveiled $500 million Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge.

Massachusetts earned the top score in the nation in the 2010 Race to the Top competition in elementary and secondary education and was awarded $250 million in funding. The state will now prepare a proposal for a portion of the Early Learning Challenge funds which were jointly announced earlier today by US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and US Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.

"Massachusetts has a comprehensive plan for increasing access to, and the quality of, early education and care programs that will allow us to make a strong case for funding in the Early Learning Challenge," said Secretary Reville. "The Patrick-Murray Administration is deeply committed to providing all children with a strong start to prevent achievement gaps from forming."

"The Governor has long recognized early education and care as a part of the strategy to ensure that all children are lifelong learners and contributing citizens," said Early Education and Care Commissioner Sherri Killins. "This exciting opportunity advances the Commonwealth's system-building efforts to support positive child growth and development that leads to a prosperous future for Massachusetts and our nation."

Governor Deval Patrick has identified closing the achievement gap as a second-term priority, and the Commonwealth already has several initiatives under way that advance the priority of early education and care programs including the launch of a Quality Rating and Improvement System in January 2011 that defines and provides tools to measure and communicate program quality; the development of state Common Core Standards that outline expectations for preschool learning and development; the defining of early learning guidelines for Infants and Toddlers; the establishment of a statewide, inter-agency Early Childhood Information System and pilot activities to assign student identifiers to children in early education and care settings; efforts to link the early education and K-12 systems from birth to third grade through aligned screening, assessment, and curricula practices; and the creation of an effective professional development system based on evidence-based practices that includes a workforce qualifications registry designed to advance educator competencies.

Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to create one agency to oversee early education and care and out-of-school time services for children and families with the establishment of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) in 2005. EEC's ongoing, year-round efforts are focused on supporting children's' development through access to high quality early learning experiences during the critical early years that provide the foundation for their future success. EEC works to increase educator competencies, improve program quality, support parents and families as their child's first teacher, and promote community engagement efforts.

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge will be administered jointly by the United States Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. Guidance, eligibility, range of awards and number of grants will be announced in the coming weeks. The application will be released later this summer with grants awarded to states no later than December 31, 2011, according to today's announcement.