Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant Evaluation
In December 2013, Georgia became a third round winner of the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant (RT3-ELCG), which is jointly administered by the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Two of the three main purposes of the grant competition are to help states: (1) increase access to high-quality early learning programs for children age 0-5, especially those children who are low-income and disadvantaged, and (2) design and implement integrated systems of high-quality early learning programs and services. Georgia’s RT3-ELCG application, which won the state $51.7M over a four-year grant period, outlined several comprehensive initiatives that the State would create, redesign, or scale-up in an effort to increase the quality of and access to early learning and development options for all children and families.
One of the major initiatives that Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) outlined in its grant application was the development of four Early Education Empowerment Zones (E3Zs)—geographic communities around the state where integrated systems of services are designed and implemented to reach young children with high needs. The purpose of the E3Zs aligns with the overall RT3-ELCG competition: to increase access to high-quality early learning programs and cultivate integrated systems of high-quality early learning programs and services. The four zones are in North Georgia (Catoosa, Whitfield, Murray, Gordon, and Gilmer counties), Clarke County, Bibb County, and South Georgia (Colquitt, Cook, Brooks, Lowndes, and Echols counties).
One of the key goals of the E3Zs, as outlined in Georgia’s RT3-ELCG application, is “to commission and complete an evaluation to measure overall implementation for intervention and project scale up (using an Implementation Science Framework).” GOSA was chosen as the evaluation partner. In this role, GOSA worked with DECAL administrators to design an E3Z evaluation that uses an Implementation Science Framework for evaluation and identification of targeted E3Z programs and services that are most suitable for scale-up after the end of the grant term. The E3Z evaluation design incorporates quantitative and qualitative methodologies to produce quarterly and annual evaluation reports, as well as two small research studies each designed to focus on one of the targeted E3Z programs. GOSA will post these reports and studies below as they are completed. Towards the end of the grant term in 2017, GOSA will publish a final E3Z report on its website.
 The E3Zs are listed in order of geography, from North Georgia to South Georgia. The counties within the E3Z North and South Georgia E3Z are presented in geographic order from west to east.