Preschool Development Grant

Strengthening NC’s System of Early Childhood Supports

NCDHHS' Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) was recently awarded over $40 million to continue and expand the work begun in the state’s initial grant. Read the press release and a fact sheet on the award.

What is the Preschool Development Grant?
The Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG) is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Child Care. These current grants differ significantly from previous years of Preschool Development Grants and are designed to fund states to conduct:

  • A comprehensive statewide birth through five needs assessment
  • In-depth strategic planning
  • Enhancing parent choice
  • Expanding the current mixed delivery system consisting of a wide range of provider types and settings, including child care centers and home-based child care providers, Head Start and Early Head Start, state pre-kindergarten, and home visiting service providers across the public, private and faith-based sectors

Forty-six states/territories received a Preschool Development Birth through Five Initial Grant Award effective Dec. 31, 2018 through Dec. 30, 2019. See a list of all awardees.

Overview of NC’s Efforts Using PDG Planning Year Funding
In 2018, DCDEE was awarded $4.48 million through the PDG for activities to strengthen NC’s early childhood education system. This grant is one way NCDHHS is implementing the statewide Early Childhood Action Plan (ECAP).

The PDG funded activities for assessing statewide needs and strategic planning for the state’s early learning system, supporting family outreach and engagement efforts, building on best practices for improved services for families, and improving quality early childhood education through increased resources and support for infant-toddler caregivers. See below for more details on the activities funded in the first year of the PDG grant in North Carolina, many of which will receive continued or expanded funding in future years of the grant.

Statewide Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan for North Carolina’s Early Education
Activities in this area of the grant focused specifically on early childhood education programs and build upon the existing work that has been done for the ECAP, as well work completed in the Pathways to Grade-Level Reading project, and work done by the the NC Institute of Medicine, the Pritzker Foundation,and others.

These efforts helped identify gaps in services and barriers to providing high quality early childhood education services as well as families’ perceptions of available resources. They also addressed efforts to improve children’s transition from preschool to public school and strategized for the best ways to track children’s outcomes at kindergarten entry.

Collaboration and coordination of services across the early childhood education system were examined, with a focus on how best to meet the needs of young children, particularly our most vulnerable children, and their families.

Maximizing Parent Knowledge, Engagement and Choice
The PDG has provided an opportunity for NC to strengthen family engagement through a variety of strategies, including providing parents information about early childhood education services and promoting/increasing parent and family involvement in the development and education of their children. A leadership team was formed to develop a statewide family engagement framework to apply across early childhood education programs. 

PDG activities in this area of the grant included:

  • Leveraging Smart Start’s extensive expertise and infrastructure to deliver and foster family engagement activities and technical assistance in local communities. Local community planning initiatives promote family engagement across systems through training, technical assistance and coaching.
  • Partnering with the community planning initiatives overseen by Smart Start, UNC-TV Public Media NC to host events aimed at deepening engagement with families across the state, with free hands-on learning activities, demonstrations supported by community partners, as well as PBS KIDS education resources.
  • Connecting with families through expanding NCCARE360, a new statewide tool that will make it easier for communities to connect people with the resources they need. NCCARE360 will connect early childhood education providers and partners to each other as well as to the network of resources available, to support early childhood education programs in linking families to services that they may need.
  • Acknowledging the diversity of families in the state by evaluating materials for translating to languages other than English and implementing alternate methods of connecting with families other than face-to-face or over the phone.

Sharing Best Practice at the Local Level and Improving Transitions
Sharing best practices among early childhood education programs will increase collaboration and efficiency of services, including supporting children’s successful transition from preschool to kindergarten.

PDG activities in this area of the grant included:

  • Recognizing that a universal enrollment/application process for services for four-year old children is a best practice for coordinating effective service delivery across early childhood education programs, DCDEE invited three contractors who have successfully implemented this approach to mentor other contractors who wish to start a similar process.
  • Building on successful kindergarten transition activities at the local level will help ensure that families who need services during the transition period can access them. Areas of focus for this project with the Department of Public Instruction included supporting communication between pre-K and kindergarten teachers; giving families a way to provide information about their child to the kindergarten teacher; training for teachers to use the transition data they receive; and a way to transfer data from pre-K to kindergarten.
  • Enhancing data sharing across early childhood education programs and to integrate with NC’s Early Childhood Data System (ECIDS), in order to address data gaps so that early childhood education outcomes may be measured better. A survey of early childhood data users helped to identify areas that may be integrated into ECIDS and has provided information on ECAP measures.

Improving Overall Quality
The PDG required one activity to improve the quality of ECE programs after the Needs Assessment and Strategic Plan are completed. Since extensive research on early brain development has shown that investments in the first three years of a child’s life are critical, NC is focusing on increasing access to high quality, center-based early learning programs for families of infants and toddlers. The state is expanding the NC Babies First (NCB1) program successfully piloted in the RTT-ELC grant and modeled after NC Pre-K.

NC Babies First will support increased quality by providing the funding needed to meet higher standards, ongoing intensive technical assistance and through monitoring progress made toward increased quality and best practice. Programs may receive stepped funding incentives based on goal attainment which can be reinvested to continue quality improvements. This project will target center-based, 5-star early childhood education settings in areas of the state with the greatest need for high quality infant and toddler care not currently served by Early Head Start. Five-star programs have shown their commitment to quality through their achievement of this highest QRIS level and are best positioned to take the next step to meeting higher standards such as reduced staff to child ratios, enhanced family engagement activities and home visits and use of formative assessments and developmental screenings.

PDG Partners
The DCDEE has partnered with several North Carolina-based and national groups to complete the PDG projects, including Smart Start, multiple Local Partnerships for Children and local education agencies across the state, the NC Department of Public Instruction, the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF), Head Start and Early Head Start, the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill, Child Trends, Third Sector Capital Partners, UNC TV, Unite Us, and the Child Care Services Association.

Find out more about the PDG, including a link to the 2018 application.

PDG Grant Manager: Theresa Roedersheimer,