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Oregon’s Early Learning Council Works Closely with its Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant

Children's blocks of the letters A, B and C.By Marsha Basloe, Senior Advisor, Early Childhood Development

I was recently sent this headline from the Blue Mountain Eagle in Oregon.  “Umatilla County may not have any five-star hotels or restaurants, but it can boast the state's first five-star Head Start program.”

The headline made me smile. It actually made me smile for a number of reasons.

  • I definitely think it’s more important to have five-star early childhood programs than five-star hotels and restaurants in a community that wants to support children, families and build for the future.
  • I’m working with Ngozi Onunaku on the State Advisory Council (SAC) Final Report and it always makes me smile when I read about the ongoing work of the SAC grants. These funds were granted to develop plans for early childhood systems work and I love reading success stories!
  • The article quoted Pam Curtis, the Early Learning Council president, an indication that the Council’s systems work is alive and well and continues on. 
  • I also have the opportunity to work with Oregon as HHS project officer for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant project and not too long ago had the chance to meet with the team and listen to their enthusiastic presentation on the Early Learning Hubs.
  • I have relatives in Oregon who work on education from birth to higher ed. (Didn’t someone say we have relatives everywhere?)
  • I also like reading about Head Start programs reaching the highest levels of quality in a state’s quality rating and improvement system.  We know that Head Start children and families truly benefit from high quality programs.

Oregon’s Early Learning Council used the finding of its needs assessment to develop its Race to the Top –Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant application. In 2012, Oregon was awarded the RTT-ELC grant. It is a vehicle for expediting the Early Learning Council’s priority initiatives that the legislature adopted into statute. This included the development of Early Learning Hubs and Oregon’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.

The Early Learning Council is now in the process of reviewing applications for the second round of Early Learning Hubs. The regional hubs bring agencies and government together like Head Start, public schools, educational service districts and the medical community to collaborate on programs to serve young children and their parents.

There are Five Core Responsibilities of Early Learning Hubs

  • Work across traditional program and sector silos for collective community accountability
  • Find the children in each community that need help the most
  • Work with families with services and providers who can best address their needs
  • Link families with services and providers who can best address their needs
  • Account for outcomes collectively and cost effectively

The Early Learning Hubs build on existing community resources, while asking tough questions about what can be done differently to get better results.

When I see a headline about a five-star Head Start program, I think about the planning both at the local level and the state level to make this happen. I also know the federal government helped! Look at the results of efforts that started years ago. Doesn’t it make you smile too?


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