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Third time no Race to the Top charm

Colorado has lost out in another round of competition for federal Race to the Top funds, this time for $60 million that would have supported state early learning initiatives.

The $500 million Early Learning Challenge program drew applications from 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Colorado came in 12th, the U.S. Department of Education announced Friday, achieving a total of 233.4 points out of a possible 300 – or 77.8 percent.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t win, but we’re not discouraged,” Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia told reporters Friday afternoon, shortly after returning from a cultural exchange trip to China.

Garcia is leading a Hickenlooper administration initiative to improve literacy among young children. He and partners from Mile High United Way and other groups recently completed a statewide listening tour on the issue, and the administration is preparing a policy proposal on early literacy that’s due in January.

Garcia said the impetus of having to prepare the application “got us much farther down the road” in working on the issue than might have happened otherwise.

Colorado’s application stressed these initiatives:

  • Improving and streamlining state oversight of early childhood education
  • Developing an upgraded quality rating system for programs
  • Integrating and consolidating early childhood development guidelines
  • Improving evaluations and interventions for young children with high needs
  • Providing improved training of early childhood workers
  • Expanded school readiness assessments of children entering kindergarten

Garcia said not getting federal funds “might slow us down” in pursuing those goals, but “It’s hard to say how much longer things might take.”

Jodi Hardin, director of early childhood systems initiatives in Garcia’s office, said for example the grant money would have allowed pilot testing of new kindergarten assessments in 500 locations. The pilot will go ahead but in far fewer locations. She said not getting the money also will mean training of childcare workers in fewer locations than had been hoped.Garcia said the administration will move ahead with a legislative initiative to streamline administration of early childhood programs.

Colorado previously lost in two rounds of competition for general Race to the Top funds. Colorado is eligible for a $17.9 million grant from a “consolation round” of the second general competition.

Asked about Colorado’s 0-for-3 record, Garcia said there were “unique reasons for each application. It’s bad luck to a certain extent.”

Diana Sirko, deputy commissioner of education, told legislators Friday, “We were very disappointed this morning with the news.”

Beverly Ingle, president of the Colorado Education Association, said, “Today’s announcement … is obviously disappointing. … We know how critical early literacy and childhood development are to success in school. We strongly supported the Race to the Top application and are proud of the effort Colorado has made. We’ll continue working with Governor Hickenlooper, Lt. Governor Garcia, Mile High United Way and leaders across the state to build support and success around early childhood education.”

A look at the winners

No state won more than 90 percent of possible points. The top state, North Carolina, earned 89.9 percent of points possible from five reviewers and will take home $69.9 million.

Here’s the ranking and points of the top twelve, with the nine winners in bold:

  • NORTH CAROLINA – 269.6 points – 89.9 percent – $69.9 million
  • MASSACHUSETTS – 267 points – 89 percent – $50 million
  • WASHINGTON – 263.8 points – 87.9 percent – $60 million
  • DELAWARE – 261.2 points – 87.1 percent – $49.8 million
  • OHIO – 261 points – 87 percent – $69.9 million
  • MARYLAND – 252 points – 84 percent – $49.9 million
  • MINNESOTA – 250.8 points – 83.6 percent – $44.8 million
  • RHODE ISLAND – 243.8 points – 81.3 percent – $50 million
  • CALIFORNIA – 243.6 points – 81.2 percent – $52.5 million
  • NEW MEXICO – 236 points – 78.7 percent
  • WISCONSIN – 234 points – 78 percent
  • COLORADO – 233.4 points – 77.8 percent

A review of points awarded Colorado’s application shows the state fared best in the category of “successful state systems,” earning 92 percent of 65 possible points. The category considered items such as past commitment to early learning and articulation of the state’s rationale for its early learning agenda and goals.

“The applicant has strongly met this criterion by clearly showing the financial investment in early learning and development programs from 2007 to present,” reviewers noted. “The applicant gives a strong presentation of the building blocks leading to a quality system.”

But Colorado didn’t do as well in two others areas – “a great early childhood education workforce,” with 63 percent of the 40 points possible, and “promoting early learning and development outcomes for children,” with 71.6 percent of the 60 points possible.

Reviewers dinged the state for the lack of a clear education pathway for early childhood workers, writing, “The applicant states that the state has no Early Education degree available and therefore has no progression of coursework leading from a credential to a 4-year degree”

See a summary chart of all states’ ranking and scores and go to the U.S. Department of Education webpage to see all states’ applications and reviewers’ comments, including comments on Colorado’s application.

Colorado’s application scorecard

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