State policymakers have an exciting opportunity to level the playing field for early childhood education with thoughtful system design using the newly released Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five, also known as PDG B-5. This grant provides funding to State early childhood agencies’ to strengthen early childhood systems. In particular, a portion of PDG B-5 funding is targeted for Renewal Grants—24 out of 25 eligible states are expected to be awarded funding for PDG B-5 Renewal Grants. These Renewal  Grants will provide three consecutive years of funding to support activities and implementation in each state. 

States awarded a PDG B-5 Renewal Grant can use funding to support activities, projects, and pilots focused on a statewide birth-five needs assessment, strategic planning, family engagement, quality improvement, workforce compensation and supports, and direct services for young children. Applications are due November 7, 2022, with funding estimated to be awarded in late December. 

Teachstone encourages states to approach the PDG B-5 application with a lens on what matters most—warm, responsive, and supported relationships between educators and children in the classroom. States have the opportunity to improve child outcomes by focusing on creating high-quality educator-child interactions as PDG B-5 funds can be used to develop meaningful pathways to credentialing and increase the equitable reach of professional development and training for early childhood educators.

Specifically, states may:

  • Expand or incorporate the use of the CLASS® in professional development trainings and continuous quality improvement systems;
  • Implement a new pilot (or expand a current pilot) on practice-based group coaching to increase early childhood educator supports;
  • Align professional development offerings grounded in CLASS with workforce retention strategies such as bonuses and micro-credentialing;
  • Increase scholarships for incoming educators to achieve their CDA; 
  • Augment a state’s early childhood data system to include CLASS data, as well as community-level trainings on data use in CQI;
  • Partner with Teachstone to develop flexible career pathways that incorporate the CLASS.

When completing the PDG B-5 application, state leaders should focus on the following sections to support equitable approaches that promote educator child-interactions: 

Activity One: Update Comprehensive Statewide B-5 Needs Assessment: States that want to simplify how quality is defined in early childhood programs or support the childhood workforce benefit greatly from the needs assessment. In a state receiving renewal grants, a statewide needs assessment is important as it allows policymakers to define foundational pieces of the system, including how quality is understood, measured, and communicated to families. The needs assessment presents a methodology to outline how a formal observation of educator-child interactions using a valid and reliable tool can support an equitable quality system. 

The use of CLASS provides a measure applied to all programs in a system and can be communicated to families. The integration of CLASS data into continuous quality improvement strategies establishes a baseline to build teaching practices upon, in every community and for every child. 

Activity Two: Develop or Update Comprehensive Statewide B-5 Strategic Plan Some quality systems have specific performance standards that disproportionately favor programs with greater resources. Eliminating these standards increase equity across programs and open up opportunities for under-resourced programs to receive more funding. Within the PDG B-5 application, state agencies can direct a strategic plan scope to include recommendations that remove administrative burden, reduce cost barriers for quality improvement performance standards, and prioritize child outcomes. These recommendations can then serve as a foundation for policy alignment within the state’s quality improvement system so they are responsive to all children’s needs in the classroom. You can learn more about building equitable quality systems by watching our recent webinar.

Activity Three: Maximize Parent and Family Engagement in B-5 System: Families deserve to know what quality early childhood education looks like so they can make informed decisions about their child’s learning. As a part of a statewide strategy to increase family knowledge about quality early learning, a state may improve community-level communications by prioritizing information on the importance of educator-child interactions. To further support building family knowledge, states can expand their mandated consumer education websites to include CLASS data by program or classroom. States agencies may also share their intention to recruit and train a cohort of regional family ambassadors that are charged with developing family-focused engagement activities to highlight key factors in high-quality classrooms, with an emphasis on understanding educator-child interactions.  

Activity Four: Support the B-5 Workforce and Disseminate Best Practices: There is always a need to increase effective classroom practices and improve educator recruitment and retention. States can do so by targeting collaborative, cross-sector professional development in a flexible career pathway. Career pathway outcomes can be aligned to workforce financial strategies, such as educator bonuses or scholarships. Additionally, when workforce development supports meet the needs of individual educators, early learning leaders can elevate an engaging work environment that builds confidence and buy-in from educators in the classroom. 

PDG B-5 can fund new coursework and training that increases the skills necessary to support positive interactions, as well as statewide educator, leader, and coaching competency frameworks. States can eliminate barriers to training access by partnering with Teachstone to offer a CDA program that is flexible and accessible. This gives state agencies multiple options for meeting workforce needs and expanding existing higher education offerings. States may also create a PDG B-5 funded career pathway pilot that includes CDA with CLASS and align both training and observed competencies in the classroom with higher education credit. 

Activity Five: Support Program Quality Improvement: State agencies can use the PDG B-5 application to share their intention to revise or expand quality activities to align with equitable continuous quality improvement efforts. Building from the state’s strategic plan, state systems can be expanded to offer access to CLASS data and other salient data points related to teaching practices, offer training on data use, and link these efforts to responsive coaching and mentoring. States may also revise their quality rating and improvement systems to increase the use of CLASS and reduce the number of performance standards not aligned with child outcomes. 

PDG B-5 is a great opportunity for state leadership and stakeholders to create a positive impact in early childhood education. Teachstone encourages all policymakers to consider the potential to focus on what matters most with a comprehensive early childhood system.