U.S. Department of Education Announces $3 Million in Pay for Success Grants for Preschool Programs


The U.S. Department of Education announced today more than $3 million in grant awards to eight government organizations for Preschool Pay for Success feasibility pilots that will support innovative funding strategies to expand preschool and improve educational outcomes for 3- and 4-year-olds. These grants will allow states, school districts and other local government agencies to explore whether Pay for Success is a viable financing mechanism for expanding and improving preschool in their communities in the near term.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence that attending high-quality preschool can help level the playing field for our most vulnerable children, we continue to have a huge unmet need in this country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “We’re pleased that these grantees will work in their communities to make the case for investing in early education and drive expansion of high-quality preschool.”

Pay for Success is an innovative way of partnering with philanthropic and private sector investors to provide resources for service providers to deliver better outcomes—producing the highest return on taxpayer investments. Through Pay for Success, the government agrees to pay for concrete, measurable outcomes, but taxpayer funds are spent only if those outcomes are achieved.

Twenty-one applications were reviewed.  Among the 8 winners are one state (Minnesota), one charter school, one school district and five local government agencies.

  • Napa Valley Unified School District, CA, $380,944
  • Santa Clara County Office of Education, CA, $392,704
  • Ventura County Office of Education, CA, $397,000
  • Minnesota Department of Education, MN, $397,158
  • Mecklenburg County Government, NC, $335,677
  • Cuyahoga County Office of Early Learning, OH, $374,320
  • Clatsop County, OR, $350,000
  • The Legacy Charter School, SC, $381,815

These feasibility studies will advance the understanding of how Pay for Success can be used to expand and improve the quality of preschool programs for low-income and disadvantaged preschoolers. Each grantee identified potential outcome measures for students that attend preschool, such as improved kindergarten readiness, reading and math growth or achievement, and improved social and emotional skills. Those outcomes will be evaluated over the course of the grant. The grantees will also examine whether children’s social and emotional development is predictive of future school success, cost savings and other societal benefits.

Each Pay for Success project will include an assessment of the design and expansion of an evidence-based preschool program and a cost-benefit analysis showing the return on investment to the community. In the event the Pay for Success model is determined to not be a viable model for funding early childhood learning in a particular community, the grantee’s final report will detail those reasons and offer potential alternatives to Pay for Success that would positively impact early childhood learning.

The grants require safeguards to protect the rights of children with disabilities if the reduction in the need for special education is one of the outcome measures explored in the feasibility studies.  Three of the studies included special education as an outcome measure, and the proposals for all three of these include safeguards and emphasize the importance of engaging special education and disability stakeholders.

The Education Department supports initiatives that are based on evidence, focus on outcomes, and improve education for students at all ages, including early childhood, elementary and secondary education, career and technical education, post-secondary and adult education. Pay for Success is one of several strategies that the Department can use to promote evidence-based policy. In addition to its potential to lead to high-quality Pay for Success projects that provide or expand early education for children, these investments will add knowledge to the field about a wider range of outcome measures that preschool Pay for Success projects should consider and will encourage other entities to set strong guardrails when using special education as an outcome measure.

Today, the Department also released another resource to explore how educators might build on and sustain the positive effects of preschool.  A new case study of five programs examined two types of promising strategies to support children’s learning in early elementary school: (1) aligning instruction from preschool through grade 3, and (2) differentiated instruction.  The five programs included:

  • Boston Public Schools
  • Chicago Child–Parent Centers (Chicago and St. Paul)
  • Early Works (Portland, Oregon)
  • FirstSchool (Martin County, North Carolina)
  • Sobrato Early Academic Language (SEAL) program (Redwood City, California)

Findings indicate that all five aligned instruction across grades by coordinating standards, curricula, instructional practices and professional development. Common elements of these programs included the use of professional learning communities, coaches, parent engagement, and play-based or student-initiated learning. All reported using strategies to accommodate students’ different skill levels, including modifying assignments, adapting learning materials, providing different levels of support, or using small-group instruction.

Source: Office of Early Learning, U.S. Department of Education

The Obama Early Childhood Legacy


By Laura Bornfreund and David Loewenberg

In a matter of weeks, the portrait of President Obama that hangs in the lobby of the Department of Education will be taken down. What policies and programs come down with it remains to be seen, raising questions about what the Obama legacy in education will be: How will he be remembered? What indelible mark has his administration left on education in our country?  What policies, if any, will outlive his administration? Finally, however the recent election alters (or tarnishes) his legacy, will his administration’s mark on early childhood education withstand?

While early learning was arguably overshadowed by K-12 reforms during the Obama administration’s first term, over the course of the past eight years, great strides have been made to improve the quality—and increase the availability—of high-quality early education offerings across the country.Since 2009, federal investment in early childhood programs has increased by more than $6 billion. Thanks to that funding, thousands more children are being served in state pre-K programs, steps have been taken to improve the quality of childcare, and Head Start—the nation’s largest federally funded early education program—has been overhauled to make it a higher quality, more flexible program. Today, nearly all states provide some funding for pre-K, and state investment in pre-K continues to rise. What’s more, 40 states are measuring early childhood program quality—up from 17 at the beginning of Obama’s administration.

Through the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC), 20 states have received a combined total of more than $1 billion to improve children’s access to high-quality early learning programs. And for the first time ever, there is a dedicated Office of Early Learning in the Department of Education (ED) — a move that proved to be significant in both symbolic and practical terms. Since its creation in 2011, the office has worked to thread early learning across ED offices and has improved coordination between ED and the Department of Health and Human Services which administers Head Start and other early childhood programs.

Perhaps most importantly, though, the president has used his bully pulpit to lift early education into the national spotlight. This was never more evident than in 2013 when President Obama used his State of the Union address to highlight the promise of early learning. Speaking on perhaps the most prominent stage in politics, the president set the ambitious goal of making high-quality pre-K available to every single child in America. This historic shout-out for early education was followed by the rollout of his “Preschool for All” proposal. While the proposal never gained much legislative traction, for the first time in recent memory, early childhood education became a centerpiece in the national conversation around improving education.

So has the access and quality of early childhood education for children and families improved over the last eight years of the Obama administration? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.”

There is room for debate, however, when it comes to whether the actions and rhetoric of the Obama administration have ushered in the type of sustainable, large-scale improvements that are needed.

While state pre-K programs are serving thousands more children, and while nearly all states now fund pre-K, the percentage of children served has remained relatively flat. Just 41 percent of four-year-olds and 16 percent of three-year-olds were enrolled in publicly-funded pre-K programs in 2015 — an increase of a mere 3 percent from 2008 levels and a far cry from the president’s 2013 call for “Preschool for All” four-year-olds.

And while it is certainly true that more states are investing in their youngest, the state of early education in the U.S., as a whole, is one that remains plagued by significant issues when it comes to quality, cost, and the workforce. The quality of state pre-K programs and other early childhood programs remains extremely varied, the cost of good child care is still far out of reach for most families, particularly low-income families, and the early childhood workforce continues to be severely underpaid.

Further complicating the record of progress, kindergarten and the early grades are still largely ignored in much of federal and state policy and the notion of a birth-through-third grade system — even a pre-K-3rd grade system — as a whole, is still just that, an idea rather than common practice. And as skeptics of large-scale pre-K programs will point out, we still don’t fully understand how best to ensure that the academic benefits of pre-K endure over time.

In short, progress has been made but significant work remains if the U.S. hopes to arrive at a place where its youngest children receive the educational opportunities they need and deserve.

Undoubtedly the Obama Administration did more than those that came before to make children’s earliest years an important part of the national education conversation. By incentivizing state and local investments and creating a national platform for the issue, the Obama administration has unmistakably helped to strengthen the quality and availability of early learning across the country. Still, rather than fundamentally transforming the early education landscape, it may be more accurate to say that the Obama years have laid important groundwork necessary for large-scale efforts in the years to come — should there be future leaders who make doing so a priority.

Source: New America

Available at: https://www.newamerica.org/weekly/edition-146/obama-early-childhood-legacy/

Preschool Development Grants Program


The Preschool Development Grants competition supports States to (1) build or enhance a preschool program infrastructure that would enable the delivery of high-quality preschool services to children, and (2) expand high-quality preschool programs in targeted communities that would serve as models for expanding preschool to all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. These grants would lay the groundwork to ensure that more States are ready to participate in the Preschool for All formula grant initiative proposed by the Administration.

Source: US Department of Education

Available at: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/preschooldevelopmentgrants/index.html?src=rotator

Education Secretary Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Burwell Announce New Grant Competition to Increase Access to High-Quality Preschool


U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced today that applications are now available for the $250 million Preschool Development Grants competition. The goal of Preschool Development Grants is to support states – including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – in building, developing and expanding voluntary, high-quality preschool programs in high-need communities for children from low- and moderate-income families. The new grant program will be jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services.

“Through the Preschool Development Grants, we continue our efforts to create educational opportunities that prepare our youngest Americans for success in kindergarten, through elementary school and beyond,” Secretary Duncan said. “This new grant competition will prepare states to participate in President Obamas proposed Preschool for All program— a federal-state partnership that would promote access to full-day kindergarten and encourage the expansion of high-quality preschool programs for 4-year-olds from low- and middle-income families. We urge states and communities to seize this opportunity, form partnerships, and begin drafting their proposals for the Preschool Development Grants program, because providing high-quality early learning opportunities is the most important single step we can take to improve the future of our young people.”

“When we invest in early education, the benefits can last a lifetime,” Secretary Burwell said. “Children who attend high-quality early learning and preschool programs are more likely to do well in school and secure good jobs down the road. We all gain when our country has a stronger, more productive workforce, lower crime rates, and less need for public assistance. These Preschool Development Grants will help put more children on the path to opportunity.”

Secretary Duncan will discuss the new Preschool Development Grant program at two events this afternoon. Duncan will join Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto to visit early learning classrooms and meet with early childhood education providers, parents and community members at the Hug Me Tight Childlife Center in Pittsburgh. Following the center visit, Duncan and Peduto will participate in a Community Conversation on early learning, hosted by the city of Pittsburgh and the National League of Cities at the Hill Houses Kaufmann Center in Pittsburgh.

Across the country, there is tremendous unmet need for high-quality early learning programs. Only 40 percent of eligible children have access to Head Start and less than one-third of all 4-year olds in the U.S. are enrolled in state preschool programs. Studies demonstrate that children who have rich early learning experiences are better prepared to thrive in kindergarten and beyond.

Under the Preschool Development Grant program, states with either small or no state-funded preschool programs will be eligible for Development Grants, while states with more robust state-funded preschool programs, or that have received Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants, will be eligible for Expansion Grants. The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services intend for high-quality preschool programs to be located in regionally diverse communities, or consortia of communities, in cities, towns, counties, neighborhoods, districts or rural or tribal areas with a high level of need or distress as determined by the state. Preschool programs funded under either category of grants will need to meet the competitions criteria for high-quality preschool programs. All states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are eligible to apply. Applications are due by Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. Awards will be made in December 2014.

President Obama is committed to closing the opportunity gap and working with states and local communities to ensure high-quality early learning for every child, so that all children enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and in life. The presidents 2015 budget request would create a federal-state partnership that would ensure universal access to high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families, with incentives for states to provide high-quality preschool for all 4-year-olds. It also includes support for other early childhood investments as part of a cohesive system of early learning and development for children, beginning with prenatal care and continuing through third-grade.

Source: Office of Early Learning, U.S. Department of Education

Available at: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/education-secretary-duncan-and-health-and-human-services-secretary-burwell-annou

Public Comment Sought for New Preschool Development Grants Competition


The U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services held an informational technical assistance Webinar on the jointly-administered Preschool Development Grants competition on Monday, May 12th, from 3:00-4:00p.m. EDT. Listen and watch the webinar and download the slides.

Thank you for your interest in the Preschool Development Grants competition, which will be jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (ED, HHS, or Departments). The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (Appropriations Act) provides $250 million for a new competition to support efforts to build, develop, and expand voluntary, high-quality preschool programs.  Competition requirements, priorities, and selection criteria will be developed consistent with the language in the Appropriations Act and accompanying report language, which can be found here.

The Preschool Development Grants competition will prepare more States to become ready to participate in the proposed Preschool for All program in the Department of Education’s FY2015 budget request.  Recent and longstanding research indicates that children who attend high-quality preschool programs achieve significant, positive short- and long-term outcomes, and the return on investment that results from attending high-quality preschool programs is overwhelmingly clear. There is tremendous unmet need for high-quality early learning programs. Only 40 percent of eligible children have access to Head Start. Less than one-third of all four-year-olds are enrolled in State-funded preschool programs.

States and communities are looking for ways to expand access to high-quality early learning opportunities. Last year, 30 governors from both parties increased funding for preschool in their State budgets. Preschool Development Grants can help States and communities meet their goals and the needs of families and children.

Source: EdBlog.gov

Available at: http://www.ed.gov/blog/2014/05/public-comment-sought-for-new-preschool-development-grants-competition/