Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning

Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge Grant

Increasing the percentage of Georgia students reading on grade level by the completion of third grade has been a top priority of my administration. With this strategic investment in our state’s work, we will be able to ensure that more of our youngest students are positioned to meet this critical benchmark and thus improve our long-term economic competitiveness.
Governor Nathan Deal

Jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant provides funding for states to create an early learning agenda that builds and strengthens current early learning and development systems.

In December 2013, Georgia was named a winner in the third round of applications, receiving the second highest score among 16 applicants. The state will receive $51.7M over the four-year grant period, the largest award given to any state in round three. Georgia's application focused on expanding these five critical areas:

Building Successful State Systems
  • Develop Early Education Empowerment Zones (E3Zs), where we will align supports, activities, and services in four geographical areas with large numbers or high percentages of children with high needs and improve infrastructure for high-quality early learning programs
Increasing High Quality, Accountable Programs
  • Validate Quality Rated and expand research and data activities that will evaluate current and future efforts and support policy revisions
  • Drastically increase program and parent participation in Quality Rated
Promoting Early Learning Outcomes
  • Expand the comprehensive roll-out of the newly launched Georgia Early Learning and Development Standards (GELDS)
  • Expand Georgia’s home visiting program, Great Start Georgia, by creating home visiting and family engagement hubs in 3-star child care centers in each E3Z
Developing a Great Early Childhood Education Workforce
  • Increase articulation among institutions of higher learning to increase student success and persistence in achieving advanced credentials in early childhood education
  • Expand SCHOLARSHIPS and INCENTIVES programs to increase the number of early childhood educators moving along a knowledge and career pathway
Measuring Outcomes and Progress
  • Create a Task Force for Comprehensive Assessment to identify a single set of common child assessments with professional development and policy guidelines
  • Design and implement a formative assessment that will be conducted during the first six weeks of children’s Kindergarten experience so each student receives a measurement of Kindergarten readiness that teachers can use to individualize instruction
  • Expand the quality of data collected for children, programs, and educators by pooling additional, existing data feeds from participating state agencies to expand the Cross Agency Child Data System

For more information, please contact DECAL Deputy Commissioner for System Reform Kristin Bernhard at

To sign up to receive monthly updates about the ELC, click here.