The Christie Administration announced today that New Jersey will receive a $44.3 million Race To The Top (RTTT) Early Learning Challenge Grant to help improve access to high-quality early learning and development programs for thousands of high needs children throughout the state.
The funding will implement an initiative that sets standards to guide the quality of programming, broadens training for program staff, and provides parents with a Consumer Reports-like rating system of early learning providers.
"Ensuring access to a high-quality education for every New Jersey student has been a priority of this Administration since day one in office," said Governor Christie. "We have made great progress to improve the educational experience for all New Jersey students, from children in early learning education programs to students attending one of New Jersey's many institutions of higher learning. I thank our federal partners and state departments for working together to secure this grant that will vastly improve the lives of children throughout the state."
The funding will help implement the New Jersey Early Learning Plan establishing a coordinated system of early education and care. The plan was created through the collaboration of four state agencies -- the Departments of Education, Children and Families, Health, and Human Services -- as well as the New Jersey Council for Young Children, which includes other public, private, state and local partners.
"This is a bold, statewide plan to provide more high-quality early childhood opportunities for children, with a focus on giving parents the information they need to access effective early learning programs, and giving program providers the tools they need to improve services," said Education Commissioner Chris Cerf. "In the end, we anticipate our effort will reach at least 83,300 high-needs children, from pregnancythrough age 8, over the four years of the grant. This grant is the result of the hard work of Departments across the state, as well as the strong voice and support of advocate groups throughout New Jersey, and I thank them for all of their efforts on behalf of our students."
The heart of the plan calls for developing a statewide quality rating improvement system called "Grow NJ Kids," which is currently a pilot program in 56 sites in four counties. Through Grow NJ Kids, a set of standards will provide a roadmap to improve the quality of programming offered from birth to school-entry ages. Early learning and development program administrators will perform a self-evaluation that, when complete, will help determine the overall quality of the program. The evaluation will serve as a basis for professional development and other improvements. Ratings will be assigned to each program to help parents in the decision-making process.