By the end of this year, the Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services will award grants of between $50 million to $100 million to states to improve early childhood education. The grants are part of a new competition called the Early Learning Challenge, a version of the Race to the Top education-reform competition launched in 2009.
How many states will win? Who are the front-runners? These questions are high on the minds of state and local officials who administer programs. To win the grants, states are required to submit applications showing evidence of their commitment to a series of reforms, including the coordination and improvement of multiple early childhood programs designed for children from birth through age 5. The two federal agencies are recruiting experts in early childhood policy to act as peer reviewers, poring over each application and scoring states on their ability to meet specific criteria outlined in the application guidelines. Applications are due on October 19, and winners will be announced before December 31.
The Early Education Initiative has been looking closely at how states are coordinating and improving these programs, and we have some predictions on which states are best poised to win. Based on historical data, we see these 11 states as top contenders:
Here is a presentation on how we came to this conclusion. To see it in larger font, click on the 'more' icon which provides an option for a full-screen view. The maps found in the presentation correspond with the charts below.
The map below shows states well-positioned to win grants based on their current records. We determined the top, possible and unlikely contenders based on information related to the two "core areas" that Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services published in the program's application guidelines: the ability of states to create successful systems and the ability of states to develop and promote high-quality accountable programs.
*Based on current and historical data only. These predictions do not include forward projections or hypotheses on states' plans to improve the quality and coordination of early childhood programs. In the actual competition, HHS and ED reviewers will be factoring states' forthcoming plans into their scoring.
For a deeper look, see our appendix (available as a PDF document) that includes charts, criteria and corresponding maps, containing the data on all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Below are links to some of the charts: