New Jersey wins Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant

Published on Thursday, February 6, 2014

In an effort to improve access to high-quality early learning and development programs, the Obama administration has awarded more than $1 billion to 20 states to provide a strong start for our nation's youngest children. In its third round of Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grants, announced in late December, New Jersey was awarded $44.3 million.

The Christie administration plans to use the money to 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.

Specifically, 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.

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.

For more information on how the New Jersey Department of Education plans to use the federal monies, visit

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