Race to the Top Early Learning Summit
New Mexico's Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Summit
Celebrating Today • Building for Tomorrow
In December 2017, we held New Mexico's Race To the Top Early Learning Challenge Summit Celebrating Today - Building For Tomorrow. Over 400 early childhood professionals and advocates joined with us at the Albuquerque Convention Center to celebrate and learn about the accomplishments of the Race To the Top - Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant over the past 5 years, as well as look forward to what it’s going to take to sustain these efforts into the future and to expand on the gains made.
We were excited to have Libby Doggett, Ph.D. as our key note speaker. As well as being a passionate advocate for quality early learning services for young children and their families, Libby was the Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US Department of Education in the Office of Early Learning and therefore responsible, with her counterpart at the US Department of Health and Human Services, for the administration of the Race To the Top - Early Learning Challenge grant, that was awarded to 19 states, including New Mexico. In her key note address “Celebration of New Mexico’s RTT-ELC Accomplishments” Libby let summit participants know that early childhood colleagues across the country are looking to learn from New Mexico and how we are seen as pioneering in a number of Early Learning areas. Participants were excited to hear Libby spell out some of the major accomplishments under the RTT-ELC in New Mexico, that included:
- Creation of FOCUS Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System in each early learning sector with over 420 programs participating in FOCUS;
- 51 programs moved up at least one Star level in past year;
- Development of the KOT with 1,447 teachers assessing 22,073 children with the Kindergarten Observation Tool (KOT);
- Creation of an Early Integrated Data System (ECIDS) allowing for reporting across programs and measuring outcomes over time;
- Creation and support for 11 early childhood Investment Zones with early childhood coalitions and action plans;
- 41,848 high needs children in FOCUS 4 and 5 Star sites;
- Consultants provided support to 244 New Mexico PreK, 190 Special Education, and 67 Title I classrooms in 89 school districts and 7 FIT Programs;
- 395 T.E.A.C.H. Scholarships to help early childhood personnel gain a degree;
- 180 professionals trained in the Integrated Learning Approach;
- 648 professionals trained as trainers on the Pyramid Framework to promote social emotional development; and
- Implementation of a coordinated governance structure.
The Summit included several panels to showcase the work that has be achieved under the RTT-ELC grant and Summit participants were asked at their tables to reflect what they had heard and make recommendations for the work ahead. The panels included:
ACCESS - Investment Zones, Geocoding and Communications
QUALITY - FOCUS Tiered Quality Rating & Improvement System
ACCOUNTABILITY - Kindergarten Observation Tool and Early Childhood Integrated Data System
The RTT-ELC team presented a summary of the sustainability plan that is being developed in collaboration with an outside consulting firm ‘The Policy Equity Group, LLC’. Development of the sustainability plan included conducting a survey of early childhood professionals, advocates and policy makers and there were 234 responses. One of the key recommendations in the plan is to develop a Governance structure for the administration of Early Learning in New Mexico. The RTT-ELC grant brought together teams from the Children Youth & Families Department, the Public Education Department and the Department of a Health around joint planning and decision in order to align the various Early Learning programs. The Sustainability plan recommends that a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) be developed between the 3 state agencies to formalize the administration of Early Learning services foryoung children and families into the future to avoid going back into siloed funding, planning and decision making. The additional feedback and recommendations gathered from summit participants are being analyzed for implications for the sustainability report.
The Summit included preschoolers performing as reindeers; Jose-Luis Orozco leading everyone in bilingual action songs; and mariachis! Lots to celebrate indeed - but also lots of work ahead to build a strong early learning system in New Mexico that ensures access to quality services and supports for young children and their families. An early learning system that and ensures that all young children thrive by 5 and enter kindergarten ready for success!