New Jersey Department of Education

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Division of Early Childhood Education

The NJ Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant


To improve program quality and services coordination for infants, young children and their families to maximize children's learning and development.

About our grant award

  • One of six states
  • $44.3 million
  • December 31, 2013 to December 31, 2017 (four years).
  • Reflects the work of the Departments of Children and Families, Education, Health, Human Services, and the NJ Council for Young Children.
  • Focuses on the quality of programs and services, from pregnancy to age eight.
  • Focuses on "high needs" children, including children with disabilities and English language learners.

At the heart is Grow NJ Kids (NJ's Quality Rating Improvement System)

  • Road map to achieving quality for early learning and care programs across settings.
  • Carefully sequenced levels of evidence-based practices in health, family and community engagement, early learning and administration.
  • Star ratings that will help parents make informed decisions about their infant or young child's care and education.
  • Will ultimately impact 83,000 infants and young children (in 1788 sites).
  • Incentives like classroom enhancements and scholarships, as well as training targeted to each component of Grow NJ Kids will help sites progress through the levels.

The grant will allow us to establish a regional Statewide Training Academy to align early childhood workforce preparation

  • Provided through NJ's system of higher education, including universities and community colleges.
  • Creates trainers that can support the comprehensive program standards from Grow NJ Kids.
  • Training Academy staff will work with the current Professional Development and Technical Assistance staff for child care, family child care, Early Head Start, Head Start and state preschool, and includes settings serving infants and young children with disabilities.

The grant will also help us

  • Implement a kindergarten entry assessment system;
  • Build upon preschool and kindergarten guidelines by developing and implementing best- practice guidelines for 1st – 3rd grades, and provide training to low-performing schools;
  • Expand Central Intake Hubs to six additional counties, connecting families with services;
  • Expand supports for infant and young child mental health;
  • Fine-tune our early childhood workforce competency framework and career lattice;
  • Implement 21 local family-led County Councils for Young Children; and
  • Connect our many data systems to answer questions about efficacy.