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Colorado selected as finalist for Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge fund

DENVER — Monday, April 9, 2012 — Gov. John Hickenlooper and Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia today welcomed the U.S. Department of Education’s announcement that Colorado is among five finalist states invited to apply for $133 million from the 2012 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge fund. Colorado will be eligible for up to $30 million in a non-competitive application process.


According to the U.S. Department of Education, eligibility for 2012 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funding was based on the strength of applications among States that participated but did not receive awards in the 2011 competition. New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Illinois and Wisconsin each earned approximately 75% or more of total points possible on a 300-point scale in the 2011 competition.


“We will apply for these funds because we are committed to providing the very best possible foundation for Colorado’s children,” said Hickenlooper. “Colorado is a leader in early education, with the goal of ensuring that every child is ready to learn.”


“People from every corner of the state expressed support for expanding quality early childhood programs to help ensure that children start kindergarten ready to fully engage in learning,” said Garcia. “This administration has placed a high priority on supporting parents and families to make sure that all children are valued, healthy and thriving. Securing these additional federal funds will bolster Colorado’s work that is already well underway to enhance quality early childhood services.”


In 2011, 35 States, D.C. and Puerto Rico applied to Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge, creating plans that increase access to high-quality programs for children from low-income families, and provide more children from birth to age 5 with a strong foundation needed to succeed in school and beyond. In December 2011, nine States were awarded grants-California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington.


The $133 million for additional Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge State grants will come from a larger $550 million fund provided by Congress through the Department of Education’s fiscal year 2012 budget. Additional dollars from the 2012 appropriation will be used to run a new district-level Race to the Top competition. More details on the new competition will be available later this spring.


Colorado’s previous proposal submitted in 2011 included strategies to:

  • Evolve the statewide Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (TQRIS) to ensure children receive the highest quality programming in all licensed settings and implement a shared services model in high-needs communities for business stability and quality improvement.
  • Integrate early childhood learning and development guidelines within all early learning system elements including workforce competencies, comprehensive assessments systems, TQRIS, and parent training and tools.
  • Leverage the state’s comprehensive assessment systems to ensure early identification and effective interventions and supports for children with high needs, leading to kindergarten readiness.
  • Create a highly qualified early childhood workforce through a competency based system that supports both formal and informal education opportunities and allows an evaluation of educator effectiveness, linked to Colorado’s K-12 system.
  • Expand the kindergarten entry assessment to ensure that Colorado’s children are on the right path to achievement at third grade and beyond.
  • Increase the effectiveness and efficiency of delivering early learning services to families at the local level by streamlining state governance with a new early childhood office in the Department of Human Services.

These strategies are key components to the state’s broader vision outlined in Colorado Reads: The Early Literacy Initiative.


 “Colorado is drawing closer to the day when every child will be able to read proficiently by third grade,” added Garcia.


The U.S. Department of Education will publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register in the near future with the full details of this proposal.