Pre-K & the Race to the Top

May 10, 2010

Over the past year, many national leaders have committed to reform education and reshape America’s school system. With this goal in mind, the Obama administration created a competitive grant program entitled Race to the Top (RTTT).

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 

     • turning around the lowest performing schools

Forty states and the District of Columbia submitted applications for Phase 1. In March 2010, the U.S. Department of Education announced the 16 Phase 1 finalists, and later that month, Delaware and Tennessee were each awarded a grant. Though the early education section of the application is optional and is not part of the grading structure, most states, including 12 of the finalists, completed it, incorporating early education policies and practices into one or more of the four reform strategies.

This brief, Pre-K & the Race to the Top, informs 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 focuses 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 highlights 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 showcases 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.

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