The third installment of Barack Obama’s much-lauded/much-reviled education reform initiative, Race to the Top, focuses on early education. States that show progress in reform, as deemed by Sec. Education Arne Duncan and co., get money. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and four others are today’s big winners. PA gets $51.4 million.
Over a four year span, the money will be used for early childhood education for initiatives, including closing the school readiness gap that exists between children with high needs and their peers as well as increasing the number of children who are able to read and do math at grade level by the end of third grade.
Under the grant the state will work to establish 50 local Early Childhood Education Community Innovation Zones to serve the lowest-performing elementary schools in the state. Each one will complete a comprehensive needs assessment to develop strategies focused on increasing family supports and engagement as well as stronger relationships between early childhood education programs and school districts and strengthen the network of community organizations that serve families with young children.
If this was a political football, like the Medicaid expansion, maybe the governor would try to reject it and craft his own proposal. But it’s not, so he’s happy to receive the grant, which he says “further solidif[ies] my administration’s strong commitment to early childhood education and the need to ensure that students are provided with quality learning opportunities.” [WITF]