|Department of Education Releases Final Guidelines for Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge|
|posted by: Alix | August 25, 2011, 03:40 PM|
Following 2010's federal Race to the Top competitive grant program, the Department of Education has once again flagged an estimated $700 million for an additional round of state-level grants. This year, the Obama administration plans to focus the majority of the funds on the nation's youngest students with their Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. The final guidelines of the program were released Tuesday.
The funding will be issued based on individual state-based plans to implement five key early education reforms including:
While the prospect of creating tests for pre-school aged children may seem complicated and perhaps unrealistic, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan emphasized that the assessments will not be comparable to classic standardized tests. In an interview this week, Duncan elaborated, "We will never ask 3-year-olds to take bubble tests. That would just be ludicrous."
Instead, the assessments will focus on preparing young children for kindergarten and insuring they step into the classroom with a means to succeed. "We're talking about assessment in the broad context," said Department of Education Early Learning Specialist Jacqueline Jones. "We want to make a distinction between specific tests and an assessment process, which is an ongoing process of collecting information about children's behavior."
While some early learning advocates are calling the program a step in the right direction for preparing young children for learning and the classroom environment, others see the focus on measurements of any kind too extreme. Executive Director of National Head Start Association Yasmina Vinci stressed that "children develop at very different rates, young children especially." Other experts argue that while collecting data and information on child development is critical, assessments should not be used to classify children at such early ages.
Despite the controversy, states eager for funding are expected to apply for the funds via lengthy proposals aimed at outlining their early childhood plans and their state's track record and prior commitments to early learning. The proposals are due October 19, and the winners will be announced sometime in December.
Do you agree with the Department of Education's focus on early learning?