The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Early Childhood Education (ECE) believes that every family should have an opportunity to choose a high quality early and care and education setting that promotes the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development of their child. Scientists, economists, and educators recognize research suggests early care and education beginning at birth is an investment that pays dividends as children enter kindergarten, move through the early elementary grades, transition to college or a career, and become adult citizens in their community. Families that choose early care and education programs for their children do so for a variety of reasons and should have options for programs that are high quality, are available where families live and work, and are affordable.
ADE ECE has an opportunity to support early childhood programs in high needs communities (HNC) through the High Quality Early Learning Grant (HQEL). The purpose of the HQEL, offered through the Arizona Department of Economic Security- Child Care Administration, is to support Arizona in developing and enhancing capacity to deliver high-quality preschool programming as well as implement and sustain quality preschool for eligible children, increasing the number of children who receive high quality early care and education services and improving young children’s success in school and beyond. High-quality early childhood services that include comprehensive services have been strongly linked to both academic and life skills success among children. Research shows children who come from families with several risk factors show the most gain from access to high quality early childhood programs.
HQEL offers an opportunity for children and families to access high quality early childhood programs by allocating funds to programs located in HNCs. Funding will support programming for those children who may not otherwise have access to high quality early care and education prior to kindergarten entry by either increasing the number of hours that children participate in a high-quality program or by increasing the number of children who are served.
High Quality Early Learning (HQEL) Eligibility
The High Quality Early Learning Grant (HQEL) is a competitive application process open to eligible quality early learning programs. Eligibility does not automatically conclude grant award. The ADE ECE will work in collaboration with early childhood system partners to identify eligibility indicators that will be used to curate a list of early learning programs that will be eligible to apply. Eligible applicants will be determined based on a weighted measure and cut scores as determined by the ADE ECE and system partners.
Those programs determined eligible to apply will be awarded based on a competitive application process in year one.
Please note that early learning programs may be subject to an onsite visit prior to determining grant participation. This onsite visit may include onsite interviews with staff, review of program alignment to the Program Guidelines for High Quality Early Education (PGHQE), and a visual inspection of the HQEL classrooms.
Those early learning programs awarded will continue with participation during the grant life cycle under the DES umbrella (obligation of funds by June 30, 2024). Once awarded, programs must be licensed, and remain “in good standing or in substantial compliance” as defined by their regulatory agency throughout their participation in the grant. A program being placed on enforcement action for any reason may result in the revocation of funding and revocation of program participation. In addition, all awarded programs must engage in authentic on-going progress monitoring and assessment using the AZ State board approved progress monitoring tool. Currently this tool is Teaching Strategies GOLD. All awarded programs must use this tool for impacted children.
All payments for the HQEL Grant are coming directly from the Department of Economic Security (DES) Child Care Administration. These payments are allocated for the same amount each month and are based on the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) slots requested in the HQEL grant application.
4/17/2022 - Application closes (Extended from April 8)
4/11/2022 - Review of applications begins
4/29/2022 - Notice of Award and Non-award. Sites must ensure that DES has an up-to-date W9.
May 2022 - Payments through DES begin
May-Aug 2022 - Onboarding Activities
Aug 30, 2022 - Programs must be fully operational
One key process we have in place is the Early Childhood Quality Improvement Practices (ECQUIP) process. ECQUIP was developed by the Early Childhood Education unit as a continuous improvement process to ensure quality and accountability among schools within an Early Childhood Program receiving state funding through the ECE unit of the Arizona Department of Education. ECQUIP is a process to bring early care and education providers and stakeholders together to break down silos, improve communication, and align quality goals. ECQUIP continues to be a vehicle for all early childhood programs to partner and build quality preschool for all Arizona’s young children.
Children who participate in high quality early education programs are exposed to academics in a way that nurtures the whole child and encourages them to engage in activities with responsive, nurturing adults who promote children’s optimal development when they’re not with their families. Historically, preschool programs and elementary education have remained separate for a variety of reasons including different funding sources, infrastructures, values, and traditions. Preschool has not typically been viewed as a part of public education for two primary reasons: (1) It is not universally funded by the public; and (2) It is not a mandated grade level. Due to the now-recognized importance of the role early care and preschool play in the education of our children, there is a critical need for high quality programs that provide children with the foundational skills and knowledge they need to be successful learners.
There are many factors that contribute to a high quality early care and education program. Some of these critical elements include:
Class or group size;
Developmentally appropriate instructional strategies; and
Interactions and relationships between staff, children, and their families.
The level of staff preparedness and stability, the opportunity for on-going training, and the responsive supervision of staff play equally important roles in ensuring quality early learning experiences for children.
The HQEL grant will be using the alignment to the High Program Quality Guidelines, Quality First Participation, Head Start Affiliation, or National Accreditation to determine program quality.
Program Guidelines for High Quality Early Education: Birth through Kindergarten (PGHQ)
Arizona is committed to supporting and improving the literacy skills of all of our children. Arizona will be leveraging the HQEL Grant opportunity to provide a comprehensive and systemic approach to advancing literacy skills among disadvantaged children in early childhood, including children living in poverty, English learners, children with disabilities, and those belonging to a subgroup that is otherwise underrepresented.
With intentional coordination and collaboration between and among early childhood education programs and system partners, targeted evidence-based strategies will be deployed at HQEL sites to produce measurable gains in language and literacy outcomes.
These strategies may include, but are not limited to:
The following sites below have been awarded the HQEL Grant. These sites will utilize the next two years to provide high-quality preschool programing to their communities youngest learners. Congratulations to the HQEL grantees!!
A.E.S.D.#44 - CENTERRA MIRAGE SCHOOL
A.E.S.D.#44 - DESERT STAR SCHOOL
A.E.S.D.#68 - ALHAMBRA HEAD START - WESTWOOD
A.E.S.D.#68 - ALHAMBRA PRESCHOOL ACADEMY
A.E.S.D.#68 - HEAD START - GRANADA PRIMARY SCHOOL
A.E.S.D.#68 - HEAD START - SEVILLA PRIMARY SCHOOL
ACORN CHRISTIAN MONTESSORI SCHOOL NORTH
ARCOIRIS CHILD CARE PRESCHOOL
B.C.E.S.D.#15 - BULLHEAD ELEMENTARY PRESCHOOL
B.U.S.D.#9 - BOBCAT CITIZEN PRESCHOOL
BIENESTAR CHILD DEVELOPMENT CENTER
BIENESTAR DEL CIELO
BUBBLES CHILDCARE & PRESCHOOL
C.E.S.D.#83 - CARTWRIGHT EARLY CHILDHOOD CENTER
C.E.S.D.#83 - CARTWRIGHT EMPLOYEE DAYCARE
C.U.S.D.#24 - CANYON DE CHELLY
C.U.S.D.#24 - CHINLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRE SCHOOL
C.U.S.D.#24 - MANY FARMS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
C.U.S.D.#24 - TSAILE PUBLIC SCHOOL
CHILDREN'S ACHIEVEMENT CENTER
CHRIS-TOWN Y M C A
COOLIDGE HEAD START
D.V.U.S.D.#97 - HEAD START I CONSTITUTION
D.V.U.S.D.#97 - HEAD START I I VILLAGE MEADOWS
DAYCARE LEON L L C
ELOY HEAD START
ESTRELLITA CHILD CARE CENTER, L.L.C.
FAMANIA LEARNING CENTER
G.E.S.D.#32 - SAN LUIS PRESCHOOL
G.E.S.D.#40 - DESERT GARDEN COMMUNITY ED PRESCHOOL
GROWING STEPS CHILDCARE & LEARNING CENTER
HARVEST PRESCHOOL & CHILD CARE CENTER
KIDS KLUB INC
L.E.S.D.#65 - LITTLETON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL PRESCHOOL
High Needs Communities (HNC) are geographically defined areas, such as a city, town, county, neighborhood, district, rural or tribal, or consortium thereof, with a high level of need as determined by indicators of poverty, opportunity zones, census track, literacy, and preschool gap data.
How do I determine Indirect Cost Rate?
Direct Costs are those for activities or services that benefit specific projects (e.g., salaries for teachers, aids, paraprofessionals and materials required for a particular project). Because these activities are easily traced to projects, their costs are usually charged to projects on an item-by-item basis.
Administrative Costs/Indirect Costs are general or centralized expenses of overall administration of an organization that receives grant funds and does not include particular program costs. Those are for activities or services that benefit more than one project. Their precise benefits to a specific project are often difficult or impossible to trace.
Sub-grantees must choose option A, B or option C, based on their applicable allowance for indirect costs, and provide proper justification for expenses in the grant application.
Option A - Federally Approved Indirect Cost Rate: If your organization has an approved indirect cost rate agreement in place, you must use that rate for this grant. If your site is associated with a district, there is likely an indirect cost rate already established. Please consult your district's fiscal administrator for more information, and select Option A in your application.
Option B - If the organization has not had an Indirect Cost rate agreement: The Subgrantee may charge the 10% provisional rate for up to 90 days and must submit an indirect cost proposal to the Arizona Department of Education within 90 days after the grant award is issued and, if it does so, may continue charging the 10 percent provisional rate until the cognizant agency has provided the Sub-grantee with a negotiated indirect cost rate; and if after the 90-day period, the Sub-grantee has not submitted an indirect cost proposal to the Arizona Department of Education, the Sub-grantee may not charge its grant for indirect costs until it has negotiated an indirect cost rate agreement with the Arizona Department of Education. If your program plans to apply for an indirect cost rate, select Option B and refer to the Grants Management Indirect Cost Rate Quick Reference Guide for further instructions.
Option C - Direct Charge: With proper justification, Subgrantee may include an allocation for administrative costs up to 5% of the total funds requested. Administrative costs may include: cost of auditing, accounting, financial, payroll, salaries and benefits of the program director and other administrative staff not attributable to the time spent in support of a specific program. Select Option C if your program does not currently have an indirect cost rate and does not plan to apply for one.
If we did not participate in ECQUIP this past year, will it impact our program's ability to apply for the HQEL grant funding?
If ECQUIP is designed for and intended for those programs wishing to strengthen and improve their local early childhood ecosystems through intentional and purposeful collaboration with families, practitioners, and ECE system partners. Per the application for consideration for funding, "Each subgrantee participating in the High Quality Early Learning Grant is required to participate in an Early Childhood Quality Improvement Practices (ECQUIP) team that is overseen by a school district." Those non-LEA (Local Education Agency) programs not invited to participate in ECQUIP meetings will not be penalized for currently not participating in ECQUIP. Participation in ECQUIP for LEA operated preschools will be one source of consideration when evaluating proposals/submissions. For more information related to ECQUIP, please refer to the ECQUIP Website and to "ECQUIP" section within the High Quality Early Learning Manual (starting on pg. 9).
What are some examples of a "Grow Your Own Staff" plan for the Literacy Coaching Model?
For the Literacy Coaching Model, a Request for Proposals (RFP) is being created for vendors. A "grow your own model" would have sites selecting current staff that they wish to build capacity relative to instructional coaching, the Science of Reading, and Early Literacy content. This staff would serve as a coach to colleagues to help build capacity of teaching and instructional support staff on the Science of Reading and instructional practices to support implementation. Resources related to the Science of Reading can be found by clicking HERE. Information related to Instructional Coaching in the Birth-Five Space can be found at https://www.coxcampus.org/app/courses/ . The RFP process does not exclude programs from hiring their own coaches to support programmatic implementation. The RFP process will be used for the identification of coaching cadres and cohorts that the ADE will deploy at identified sites.
How is homelessness defined?
For the purposes of this grant, the ADE will be using the McKinney-Vento Act definition for homelessness.
The McKinney-Vento Act defines homeless children as “individuals who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” The act provides examples of children who would fall under this definition:
Children and youth sharing housing due to loss of housing, economic hardship or a similar reason;
Children and youth living in motels, hotels, trailer parks, or campgrounds due to lack of alternative accommodations;
Children and youth living in emergency or transitional shelters;
Children and youth abandoned in hospitals;
Children and youth whose primary nighttime residence is not ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation (e.g. park benches, etc.);
Children and youth living in cars, parks, public spaces, abandoned buildings, substandard housing, bus or train stations;
Migratory children and youth living in any of the above situations.
What happens if there is staff turnover during the year?
A certain degree of staff turnover is anticipated each year. Programs should make every effort to recruit and retain staff. All staff lead staff who do not meet the staffing qualifications outlined within the High-Quality Early Learning manual must be on a PD plan and/or degree attainment plan.
Is there a pay scale that would help us determine a competitive wage for staff that do not have a degree, but are on a professional growth plan?
Pay Scales vary by region and district. Programs are encouraged to visit the website of their neighboring school district or contact the district HR department for a current pay scale. A report that may prove helpful is the Arizona School District Spending Report put out by the Arizona Auditor General. The District pages display the average teacher salary under the “Student and Teacher Measures” Section. This can be found at: Arizona School District Spending Report by Fiscal Year. Please keep in mind that this does not display the district pay scale.
Is it mandatory for a program to be Nationally Accredited, Head Start affiliated, or participate in Quality First?
No, it is not mandatory for a program to be Nationally Accredited, Head Start affiliated, or participate in Quality First to be considered high quality. A program's quality can also be measured by alignment to and implementation of the Program Guidelines for High Quality Early Education: Birth through Kindergarten (HQPG) which provide indicators relative to curriculum, assessemnt, and educator qualifications.