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.
HQEL is a competitive grant in year one and continuation grant for the following fiscal year. Eligible providers that wish to participate must:
Submit a competitive full application; and
Be determined eligible and of sufficient quality to participate in the funding; and
Have the capacity to meet grant deliverables including programmatic, fiscal, and infrastructure capacities; and
Funding will be distributed based on the eligible programs who submit proposals for the upcoming fiscal year. There is the possibility that not all eligible programs will be chosen for participation nor may proposals be fully funded.
Grant Applications are submitted at the following link:
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
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, and 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:
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.
Just like the state-level partnerships, these partners could be Head Start personnel, private child care provider representatives, Part C service providers, related service providers, etc. The goal of ECQUIP is to bridge birth to 5 programs to the K-12 system. Participating in the ECQUIP process is a requirement for ALL Early Learning Programs (ELPs) in an HNC.
Monitoring of program sites is a proactive approach to ensuring HQEL sub-grantees are following guidelines and providing high quality and comprehensive educational programs that promote improved student achievement. A formal monitoring visit (compliance validation) will occur annually.
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.
If we are a district with multiple eligible sites, do we fill out multiple applications or just one?
Yes, each eligible site must fill out an application for consideration.
How do I fill out the Funding Source section (Source, Cost, and Amount)?
The Funding Source includes any source of funding used in your program (i.e. DES Subsidy, Quality First, IDEA Grant, Tuition, etc.).
The Cost section includes any expense that the Funding Source is used for (i.e. rent, salaries, benefits, etc.). This section should be written in text format, and can include multiple expenses, or one expense per "line item."
The Amount is the total annual amount used from the Funding Source to pay for the Cost(s) listed. This section should be written in number format.
Do I need to attend an informational webinar to apply to the grant?
No, attendance at the live informational webinar sessions is not mandatory to apply to the HQEL grant. The slide deck from the webinars along with a recorded video of the slides (available in English and Spanish) can be found in the "Informational Webinar and Slides" dropdown menu on the HQEL website.
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 do I calculate income eligibility for families?
Children in foster care or experiencing homelessness who are age-eligible (3 or 4 by September 1) are considered a family of zero income and are automatically qualified.
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.
AIMSWeb Kinder cut scores are significantly higher than the AZ Early Learning Standards. Are we using the Standards or National Benchmarks?
AIMSweb: Kindergarten is a standards-based assessment intended to be used in kindergarten for early literacy and early numeracy to track student progress over time. This assessment helps teachers to design and augment instructional practices to meet the needs of the student(s). It is intended to align to Kindergarten Standards. In preschool programming our Arizona’s Early Learning Standards. These Standards align to the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework and current research and best practices. Program and student goals should align to and support the needs of the student. Given the varying early childhood experiences, life experiences, ages, and maturation levels of young students, it is best that programs have an understanding of the Infant Toddler Developmental Guidelines, the Arizona Early Learning Standards for children ages 3-5 prior to Kindergarten, and the Kindergarten Standards. For more information regarding assessment please refer to our Assessment Continuum Guide.
Is this funding from the Biden Universal Preschool plan?
No. This funding opportunity is made possible via the COVID relief dollars through the Department of Economic Security Child Care Administration (DES-CCA). For information regarding current grant and scholarship programs for families and child care providers please click HERE. For information regarding Universal Preschool being proposed by the Biden Administration please click HERE.
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.