Report

Pre-K & the Race to the Top

A Review of Early Education Proposals in States' Phase I Grant Applications

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This 2010 report informed education advocates and stakeholders about the innovative strategies that states used to include pre-k in their Phase 1 proposals for Race to the Top, the Obama Administration's competitive grant program.

In 2009, the Obama administration created a competitive grant program entitled Race to the Top (RTTT), which was passed by Congress as a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). RTTT features two grant phases
that will award a total of $4.35 billion in education funding and are focused on four key policy areas—standards and assessments, data systems, great teachers and leaders and turning around the lowest performing schools.

In calling for reform, the U.S. Department of Education also recognized that states' efforts would be strengthened through “activities that promote school readiness and ensure that all children have access to high-quality early learning programs.” Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted applications for Phase 1.

This brief, Pre-K & the Race to the Top, informed education advocates and stakeholders about the innovative strategies that states used to include pre-k in their Phase 1 proposals.

Pre-K Now reviewed all 41 applications, but this brief focused on those of the finalists,describing the role that pre-k played in each of the policy areas targeted by RTTT and highlighting particularly innovative examples. The brief also highlighted avenues advocates and stakeholders can use to make pre-k part of their states' Race to the Top Phase 2 applications.

Though the inclusion of pre-k ultimately has no bearing on RTTT award outcomes, this analysis showcased how states view pre-k within their larger context of education reform and how the early learning community can help to shape this vision with policy makers. Given this opportunity, state leaders should review the best early learning practices outlined in these applications and work to incorporate similar ideas into future reform proposals, such as Phase 2 of RTTT, the Investing in Innovation Fund and other education reform initiatives. These strategies can also form the basis for coordinated outreach to policy makers at both the state and federal levels regarding inclusion of pre-k in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.