Two kindergarteners getting help with writing

ELC Progress

Progress Key

The Early Learning Challenge (ELC) project will measure its progress against the following indicators.

  • Parent Aware

    The first set of measures tracks progress toward statewide implementation of Parent Aware, Minnesota’s Quality Rating and Improvement System. Parent Aware helps parents find quality early care and education providers in their area. The one- to four-star ratings system, a free service, measures best practices identified by research that help children succeed in kindergarten and beyond. The statewide rollout of Parent Aware phased in over the grant period, but beginning at the start of 2015, rating is available to programs in every Minnesota county. See the Parent Aware roll out map by county between 2012 and 2015.

    Parent Aware available to eligible programs:
    Full rating offered in 8 counties (Q1 2012)
    Full rating offered in 22 counties (Q1 2013)
    Full rating offered in 45 counties (Q1 2014)
     Full rating offered in 68 counties (Q1 2015)

    Statewide Accelerated Pathways to Rating
    Accredited child care programs, school-based Pre-Kindergarten, Head Start and Early Childhood Special Education programs anywhere in Minnesota can enter Parent Aware through the Accelerated Pathways to Rating, which gives them credit for meeting the quality standards already built into their program’s requirements. These programs can apply at any time. The school-based Pre-Kindergarten programs include, but are not limited to School Readiness, Title I and fee based preschool programs.

    Number of programs rated by Parent Aware
    654 programs rated (Q4 2012 – actual 529 )
    1,491 programs rated (Q4 2013 – actual 1,322 as of 12/31/13)
    2,610 programs rated (Q4 2014 – actual 1,892 as of 12/31/14)
    3,700 programs rated (Q4 2015 – actual 2,644 as of 6/30/16)

    At the end of June, 2016, Minnesota is at 71% of our goal for total number of rated programs.

    Source Notes: 1) The 705 school-based programs (sites) meeting School Readiness Standards represent 317 school districts. Twenty-four (24) of the school-based sites are licensed as child care centers.
    2) The 266 Head Start sites represent 31 Head Start Grantees. One hundred ninety (190) sites are licensed programs: 171 sites are licensed by DHS as child care centers; 15 are licensed by DHS as family child care providers and 9 are licensed by a Tribe.


    Distribution of Programs by Star Rating

    Four Star Ratings are still the most common ratings. This is due to the high percentage of APR Ratings.

    Use of Parent Aware Website
    One of the unique features of Parent Aware is that it is designed to be a tool used by parents across the income spectrum, as they shop for early learning programs. Parent Aware for School Readiness (PASR) is a private-sector partner in the ELC plan, with responsibility for promoting the Ratings to all parents across Minnesota.

    PASR uses private funds to promote Parent Aware by sending parents to Parent Aware to shop for programs (more information on these activities). PASR’s goal is 5,000 unique visitors to the site each month (updated here each quarter).

    From January 1st to June 30, 2016 there were nearly 60,000 (59,965 actual) new and returning visitors to the site averaging almost 10,000 users per month, a significant increase over the previous six months.

    The number of page views and duration of visit to the website remained strong and consistent with the previous six months. Visitors during this period viewed over 520,000 pages, spending over 5 minutes on the website and viewing an average of 5 pages per session. Seventy percent of page views were related to searching or viewing early education provider and program detail pages.

  • Access

    Offering Early Learning scholarships to children with high needs is one of Minnesota’s innovative strategies. There are currently two sources of funding for Early Learning Scholarships – a state appropriation and the ELC grant. As of July 1, 2015 Early Learning Scholarships became available for eligible families statewide.

    State-funded Early Learning Scholarships
    The State of Minnesota continues to increase investments in a continuum of early childhood services including Early Learning Scholarships, Head Start, School Readiness, Early Childhood Family Education, Child Care Assistance, and Parent Aware. During the 2015 Legislative Session, funding for Early Learning Scholarships was increased to a total state investment of $104 million in the 2016-17 biennium. Eligible children are able to access Early Learning Scholarships in two ways:

    1. Pathway I: Early Learning Scholarships awarded to eligible children through a regional scholarship administrator. Scholarship amounts are based on Parent Aware rating of the program selected by the family.
    2. Pathway II: Early Learning Scholarships awarded to eligible Parent Aware rated programs to support eligible families.

    As of July 1, 2015, the maximum scholarship amount for fiscal year 2016 is $7,500. MDE has established the new scholarship amounts based on Parent Aware star rating level.


    The Minnesota Department of Education tracks the progress of awarding scholarships through both Pathways.
    Pathway I: 4,822 as of June 30, 2016 (target = 2,850 for SFY 2016)
    Pathway II: 6,426 as of June 30, 2016 (target = 2,850 for SFY 2016)
    Total State-Unduplicated 11,219

    2017 Projections:
    Pathway I: 4,002
    Pathway II: 4,003
    Total of 8,005

    ELC Early Learning Scholarships
    The Transformation Zones began accepting applications for Early Learning Scholarships supported by ELC grant funds in early 2013. Each of the Transformation Zones has the authority to decide how to administer the ELC funded scholarships in their community. Giving the Transformation Zones the ability to manage which will allow all of us to learn more about which strategies work in different communities. The targets shown below assume an average scholarship amount of $4,000, but community variation makes it hard to predict exactly how many scholarships will be awarded, and when.
    964 as of June 30, 2016 (end of grant target = 1,155)

    Title I PreK Incentives
    The ELC grant is also piloting another strategy for connecting children with high needs to high quality early learning programs. This approach, referred to as Title I PreK Incentives, offers grants to school districts that use their federal Title I funding to support high quality PreK programs. The Title I PreK Incentives are available to all school districts in the Transformation Zones each year of the Early Learning Challenge grant.
    School districts in Transformation Zones earn Title I PreK Incentives (6 of 15 applied/awarded for 2012-13 school year)
    School districts in Transformation Zones earn Title I PreK Incentives (23 of 31 eligible districts applied and received the Incentives for 2014-15 school year, with a total of $1,391,219 awarded. In addition, $62,406 in grants to help 4 districts in White Earth plan and prepare for using Title I to fund high quality PreK.)
    School districts in Transformation Zones earn Title I PreK Incentives (27 of 31 eligible districts receiving Title I PreK Incentives for the 2015-16 School Year)

    During the life of the ELC grant, Minnesota must report the number of kids with high needs in the state who attend high quality early learning programs.
    18,486 children with high needs in 3 & 4 star programs – unduplicated count (Q4 2012 – actual 20,959)
    22,527 children with high needs in 3 & 4 star programs – unduplicated count (Q4 2013 – actual 38,400)
    32,050 children with high needs in 3 & 4 star programs – unduplicated count (Q4 2014 – actual 43,175)
    46,343 children with high needs in 3 & 4 star programs – unduplicated count (Q4 2015)

  • Great Workforce

    This set of progress measures looks at how many early childhood educators/staff have earned credentials aligned with the State’s workforce knowledge and competency framework. The Early Learning Challenge Plan includes scholarships for early childhood educators to move up the lattice on training. Before the Early Learning Challenge grant efforts began, approximately 470 early educators were credentialed each year. If goals are met, Minnesota will be credentialing twice as many early childhood educators in 2015 as were credentialed in 2011.
    555 additional Early Childhood educators credentialed (Q4 2012)
    809 additional Early Childhood educators credentialed (Q4 2013 – actual 726 as of 12/31/13)
    883 additional Early Childhood educators credentialed (Q4 2014 – actual 947 as of 12/31/14)
     954 additional Early Childhood Educators credentialed (Q4 2015 – actual 1,136 as of 12/31/15):

    o Minnesota Child Care Credential – 97
    o MNAEYC Director’s Credential – 22
    o National Child Development Associate Credential – 398
    o Certificate or Diploma – 202
    o Associate Degree – 298
    o Bachelor Degree – 119

  • Comprehensive Assessment System

    An early childhood comprehensive assessment system seeks to coordinate and align assessment activities across early learning and development programs birth to age eight. These activities include helping early learning programs and providers choose assessments, use assessments appropriately and improve their skills in using assessment to guide instruction. This system includes multiple initiatives with far-reaching outcomes including:

    ◍ Developmental screening via online systems. (RTT ELC Electronic Screening Update Interim Report June 2016 for a report on the online screening pilot.)

    ◍ Revise current efforts to measure children’s early kindergarten skills through developmentally appropriate assessment methods. Based on the revision efforts, the Minnesota Department of Education has a list of assessment instruments that align to the early learning and kindergarten standards. These tools are available for use in their kindergarten entry profile.

    ◍ Training and other supports to help early learning programs choose and use assessments for a wide range of purposes, including instructional assessment, classroom and system level assessments, including:

    • Early learning programs can get help choosing an appropriate tool on the MDE website.
    • Early learning program staff can access training on high quality assessment tools by accessing the over 45 trainers trained through the comprehensive assessment system on Develop and the MDE website. Available trainings include the Teaching Strategies suite of curriculum and assessment tools, Desired Results Developmental Profile, Work Sampling System and Classroom Assessment Scoring System.
    • Training on special topics for assessment are available either in-person or in a self-paced online format. The list of special topics is below. A comprehensive list of trainers can be found on the Develop website. Online, self-paced modules are housed on CEED’s website. Most resources are available in Spanish and English. Special Topics include:

    1. Supporting authentic assessment for administrators
    2. Embedding authentic assessment into everyday practice
    3. Linking standards, assessment and instruction
    4. Involving families in the assessment process
    5. Assessing culturally and linguistically diverse groups
    6. Assessing dual language learners
    7. Using authentic assessment to inform curriculum, instruction and caregiving
    8. Resources for coaches

    Additional K-3 resources are being developed to accompany the special topics above. These include self-paced modules for kindergarten teachers on how to use authentic assessment and self-paced modules for K-3 teachers on assessing reading comprehension. These modules will be available December 2016.

  • EC Longitudinal Data System

    The Early Childhood Longitudinal Data System (ECLDS) enhances the state’s ability to answer broad and meaningful questions about outcomes for Minnesota’s youngest children. Because early childhood services are coordinated across different agencies, the ECLDS links existing data, phased and over time, from multiple sources and retain that data to allow for a retrospective, longitudinal view of Minnesota children and their outcomes. The ECLDS has two goals: create a linkable data repository for analysis of early learning data and; create analytic tools for the use of de-identified data to support relevant research for policy and practice. Download an overview of the ECLDS system, including frequently asked questions.
    ECLDS governance and work committees in place (Q1 2013)
    Research questions identified (Q4 2013)
    The Early Childhood Statewide Longitudinal Data System approved the first and most foundational question in March 2014:
    What are the counts and percentage of children participating within each public early care and education program, family support program, and across all programs?
    a. List all of the programs in which the child participates.
    b. What is the intensity/dosage of each of these?
    c. Which children are participating in what early care and education programs, by population group?

    This question is intended to provide a foundation for which children (“who”) are being served in publicly-funded programs (“what”) to allow the system to move on to a variety of questions related to outcomes.

    The second broad policy research question approved (Q4 2014) is:
    For each service received, what are the initiation, intensity, and duration of each service received, and status, progress, or outcomes, from birth through 3rd grade for: a) those children with identified risk/protective factors and/or have high needs; and b) for all children?

    State data identified for inclusion (Q1 2014)
    The Minnesota Early Childhood Longitudinal Data System is now up and running, so to learn more about the data that is included, see the Data Dictionary and the matrix showing the Data Sources currently available in ECLDS, by source agency and by year (1999 – present). New data sources and data for more recent time periods are added throughout the year, so check the website to see updates. Additional data sources to be added include Head Start (beginning with individual grantees), Early Learning Scholarships and Help Me Grow.

    Progress on ECLDS continues in 2015, including the following:
    Birth records have been integrated into the system (complete Q4 2014)
    Select K-12 assessment data have been approved for inclusion, including MCA-III, MOD-III, MTAS-III, and MTELL. (Expected Q2 2015). See details on these assessments and their administration schedule.
    Analytics work has begun to identify the charts and graphs that will appear on the public website.
    Numerous state data sources have been loaded into the ECLDS to-date. They include MFIP, SNAP, CCAP, K-12 Enrollment, K-12 Assessment, and Birth Certificates. Additional data sources are planned for Fall 2015.
    System in place for use statewide (Q4 2015)

    Download an overview of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Data System for more information.

  • School Readiness Report Card

    Minnesota created a series of School Readiness Report Card Fact Sheets as part of the ELC plan. The Fact Sheets, which focus on describing the status of young children in Minnesota, are available now from Wilder Research.