As they work to deliver on a range of promises, the 2011 Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge winners also are scrambling to address a number of challenges, Education Week reports.

Announced in December, the nine recipients of early learning grants — California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington — are working to align and raise standards for existing early learning programs; improve training and support for educators; and build robust evaluation systems that promote effective practices and programs to help parents make informed decisions. But as they do so, the states are facing uncertainty on the budget front and pushback from a multitude of players, including public and private preschools and nonprofit centers involved in helping to implement the new standards and programs.

Despite such challenges, states in which the new efforts build on existing programs have an advantage. Maryland, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Washington, for example, had already created offices to oversee their various early childhood programs, while North Carolina has had a rating system in place for more than a decade and intends to use its grant to make its system more rigorous by adding standards to the upper tiers,Education Week reports.

And while many in the field continue to praise the Early Learning Challenge program, others argue that neither the program nor the funding made available through it are enough. Indeed, while thirty-eight states applied for funding, only nine states were awarded grants. To remedy the situation, the Department of Education has announced plans to fund up to $550 million in additional Race to the Top grants in 2012. Education advocates told Education Week that they hope some of that funding will be allocated for early learning challenge grants.

“The biggest takeaway from this entire competition is that early childhood needs much more money than what was available in this round of Race to the Top,” Harriet Dichter, vice president of the Chicago-based Ounce of Prevention Fund, told Education Week. “The pool of applicants was very good beyond the nine winners.”

For more on this article, please visit the Education Week website.

For more information on grants and grant writing, please visit the Grant Pros website.

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