McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership Participates in the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge in Illinois and Delaware

WHEELING – August 26, 2013. The McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University is pleased to announce its role in helping Illinois and Delaware improve developmental outcomes including school readiness for their states’ youngest children. Illinois and Delaware are among 14 states that were awarded four-year grants through the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand high-quality early learning programs for children, especially those in disadvantaged communities.

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge is a key part of the Obama administration’s comprehensive early learning agenda. The Early Learning Challenge helps communities connect children with the greatest needs to high-quality programs, promotes quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS) to strengthen the quality of early learning programs, and supports the development of effective early childhood teachers and leaders.

Illinois has been awarded a $52.5 million Early Learning Challenge grant to expand and support quality early childhood education in Illinois. ExceleRate Illinois is the new quality rating and improvement system that launched July 1, 2013. The new QRIS includes all early learning programs in the state serving children birth to five years of age. The McCormick Center is responsible for completing on-site quality assessments, conducted at both the classroom and program levels, in schools, child care centers, and family child care homes. The 17-member assessment team maintains a high level of reliability on validated program quality assessment tools including the Environment Rating Scales, the Program Administration Scale, the Business Administration Scale for Family Child Care, and the CLASS. The McCormick Center also provides training and on-going support of the Quality Specialists, a cadre of consultants and coaches located across the state that support early childhood program staff in their continuous quality improvement efforts.

Delaware has been awarded a $49.9 million Early Learning Challenge grant. In Delaware, the McCormick Center’s work focuses on leadership development. Over the course of three years, the McCormick Center will provide a facilitated cohort model of Aim4Excellence™ Online National Director Credential for 475 early childhood administrators. Aim4Excellence delivers high-level content in an engaging and interactive web-based format. Module topics include: leadership self-reflection; recruiting, selecting, and orienting staff; promoting peak performance; managing program operations; building a sound business strategy; planning indoor and outdoor environments; supporting children’s development and learning; creating partnerships with families, and evaluating program quality. The credential focuses on the essential knowledge and skills needed to deliver high-quality programming for young children. Having skilled and knowledgeable leaders in place is critical to achieving Delaware’s goal of a sustainable and thriving statewide early learning system.

At the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University, we empower individuals to build the leadership and management skills they need to create and sustain exemplary programs for young children. Through professional development, evaluation, research, and public awareness, we promote best practice in program administration. By working with states, professional organizations, and directly with early childhood practitioners, we raise the bar on program quality. Because, when it comes to early childhood education, leadership really does matter.