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W.K. Kellogg Foundation applauds Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge winners

Nicole de Beaufort
W.K. Kellogg Foundation

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — The W.K. Kellogg Foundation congratulates California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Washington on winning federal funding to improve early childhood education and development through the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge competition. The Kellogg Foundation is excited that these states will have the opportunity to implement several key policy initiatives that are critical for preparing children for school success, including:

  • Developing rating systems for pre-K programs
  • Crafting appropriate standards and tests for young children
  • Setting clear expectations for early childhood educators
  • Focusing on family engagement

The foundation believes that supporting vulnerable children from pre-natal through age 8 is critically important to creating conditions that prepare children for long-term success and independence. We are thrilled that the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services supported this $500 million competition and the administration understands the importance of investing in our nation’s youngest.

“Since a child’s education starts at birth, not on the first day of kindergarten, we’re excited to see these states winning the Early Learning Challenge and know that meaningful work will take place to improve early education for thousands of children,” said Sterling K. Speirn, president and CEO of the Kellogg Foundation. “Over half of the achievement gap is created in the first five years of a child’s life, so this competition, especially its work in building bridges between the pre-K and K-12 systems, will do much to close that gap.”

Although they did not win, the foundation is proud that state and education leaders in three of our foundation’s priority places – Michigan, Mississippi and New Mexico – brought a variety of stakeholders together to develop innovative approaches to improving the quality of early learning. Rather than treating the first five years as a disconnected experience from K-12 education, many of these states are now more focused on working together and aligning community resources and programs which will better serve young children and their families throughout their education experience.

The foundation supported several states, including Michigan, throughout the application process. Michigan’s application included number of meaningful education improvements, including: statewide implementation of Great Start to Quality, a tiered quality rating and improvement system for all early learning programs, an assessment of children as they enter kindergarten, a child care scholarship project, mechanisms for connecting health services, professional development investments to ensure early childhood educators are well prepared and support for family engagement.

“A longtime supporter of Michigan’s early education work, the foundation is proud to see the state’s vision for early childhood education moving forward,” said James McHale, chief of staff for the foundation. “The creation of the Michigan Department of Education’s Office of Great Start – an office devoted to early learning – as well as the tremendous effort that went into developing the state’s Early Learning Challenge grant application demonstrates how 2011 has been a year marked by significant progress in the area of expanding and improving early childhood education in Michigan.”

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is also a proud supporter of the First Five Years Fund, which has been a strong advocate for the Early Learning Challenge and helped create the Early Learning Challenge Collaborative to help states with their applications.

We’ll be eagerly watching how the winning states implement their plans and how all of our country can continue to invest in and work to improve education in children’s early years.

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Based in Battle Creek, Mich., WKKF engages with communities in priority places across the country and internationally to create conditions that propel vulnerable children to realize their full potential in school, work and life.

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