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$50 Million on its Way to Maryland for School Prep

January 9, 2012

BALTIMORE - Success in school begins long before a child sets foot in a classroom, and this year Maryland will be sharply focused on those early learning years because of its winning "Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge" application. Maryland won $50 million in federal funding over four years to work toward making sure every child is ready to succeed in school.

The executive director of Maryland Family Network, one of the organizations involved in the project, Margaret Williams, says it's something that's been in the works for ten years, but gaps remain.

"What 'Race to the Top' gives Maryland is a real booster shot; really pushes us ahead."

Research has already been done to identify which students need the most attention. They are children from low-income families, children who speak languages other than English at home, and children with special needs.

The Maryland State Department of Education has taken the lead in development of a ten-part plan that Williams says mostly focuses on improving child-care quality.

"We will work with the child-care providers through, primarily, training and technical assistance on improving what they do with little kids, of understanding better what child development is, and help the child's development."

Community hubs are another part of the plan, which are likely to encompass Judy Centers and Family Support Centers, offering resources to families with children at home. Williams says progress will be tracked, measured and reported as children enter school.

Maryland also won a Race to the Top Grant for all grades last year. That one totals $250 million.

Details about the plan are at ht.ly/8m7v9.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD