Services for Preschool Instructional Excellence Request for Applications (RFA)

Illinois Department of Human Services
Division of Family and Community Services
Bureau of Child Care and Development

Services for Preschool Instructional Excellence Request for Applications (RFA)

Released March 14, 2014


  1. PART I
    1. A. Date of Issuance March 14, 2014
    2. B. Issuing Organizational Unit
    3. C. RFA Availability
    4. D. Due Date, Location and Time of Application Opening
    5. E.Audit Submission Requirements
    6. F. Application Submission Requirements
    7. G. Eligible Applicants
    8. H. Questions and Answers
    9. I. Award Process
    10. J. Review Panel
    11. K. Estimated Length of Agreement
    12. L. Withdrawal Disclaimer
    13. M. Modifications to Applications by Applicants
    14. N. Modifications to Application by DHS
    15. O. Clarifications, Negotiations or Discussions Initiated by DHS
    16. P. DHS Grants Information Conference
    17. Q. Late Application/Responses
    18. R. Commencement of Service
    19. S. Public Information
    20. T. Contract
    21. U. Program Evaluation and Reporting Requirements
    22. V. Training and Technical Assistance
    23. W. Congressional and Legislative Districts
    24. X. Additional Information
    25. Y. Sectarian Issue
    26. Z. Background Checks
    27. AA. Child Abuse/Neglect Reporting Mandate
    28. BB. Hiring and Employment Policy
  2. PART II
    1. A. Intent of the RFA
    2. B. Department's Need for Services (Rationale)
    3. C. Objectives/Services to be Performed (the Approach)
    4. D. Service Area
    5. E. Mandatory Requirements of Applicants
    6. F. Award Amount
    1. A. Executive Summary (2 page maximum) - Not scored
    2. B. Organization Qualifications/Organizational Capacity (7 page maximum) (25 points)
    3. C. Application (20 page maximum) (65 Points)
    4. D. Budget and Budget Justification (7 page maximum) (10 Points)


A. Date of Issuance March 14, 2014

B. Issuing Organizational Unit

  • Illinois Department of Human Services
    Division of Family and Community Services
    Office of Early Childhood
    Bureau of Child Care and Development
    100 South Grand Avenue East
    Springfield, IL 62762
  • Contact Person
    Kim Collins, Project Manager
    Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development

C. RFA Availability

Copies of this RFA may be downloaded from the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development's website at  Additional copies may be obtained by calling the contact person listed above.

D. Due Date, Location and Time of Application Opening

Applications must be received no later than Friday, April 25th, by 4:00 p.m. The application package will be time-stamped upon receipt. All applicants should add the RFA name outside of the application package. Applications submitted by electronic mail, on diskette or by facsimile machine will not be accepted.

When submitting the application please include two (2) originals and four (4) copies to the address listed below. The signatures on the original application should be in blue ink. Also include one (1) CD or flash drive with the proposal saved in a word document format and PDF format.

  • Mail your completed grant applications to:
    • Illinois Department of Human Services
      DHS Procurement Office
      "Sealed Bid - Do Not Open"
      Preschool Instructional Excellence
      401 North 4th Street, 2nd Floor
      Springfield, Illinois 62701

All questions about the contents of the RFA may be directed to Kim Collins via email at  Please include the Preschool Instructional Excellence RFA in the Subject Box of your email.

E.Audit Submission Requirements

All organizations applying for state funds must submit one (1) copy of their most recent audited financial statements as part of their application. These should be included as Appendix F of the Application. The Department will use the audit to ascertain the fiscal health of applicants.

While the audit will not be scored as part of the review the Department reserves the right to use information in the audit to assist in the final recommendation for funding. Applicants are expected to demonstrate through their audits a strong financial position and an ability to obtain funding outside of the public sector.

Units of government (such as cities and counties, schools, health departments, etc.) do not need to submit an audit.

F.  Application Submission Requirements

To be considered, applications must be in the possession of the Department of Human Services staff at the specified location and by the designated date and time listed above. The deadline will be strictly enforced without exception. In the event of a dispute, the applicant bears the burden of proof that the application was received on time at the location listed above.


All applications must be typed on 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper using 12-point type and at 100% magnification (not reduced). With the exception of letterhead and stationery for letter(s) of support, the entire proposal should be typed in black ink on white paper. The program narrative must be typed, double-spaced, on one side of the page, with 1-inch margins on all sides. The program narrative must not exceed the specific page limits outlined in this RFA. The attachments, assurances, letters of support/collaboration and budget forms are NOT included in the page limitation.

The entire application, including appendices, must be sequentially page numbered. Applications should be bound with a single staple or binder clip in the upper left-hand corner. Applicants must not use any other form of binding, including ring binders, spiral binders, report covers or rubber bands as well as subject dividers or tabs to extend beyond the 8 1/2 x 11 inch page.

Not adhering to these guidelines for application submission constitutes grounds for application disqualification. Therefore, the Department is under no obligation to review applications that do not comply with the above requirements.

G. Eligible Applicants

All public, private, for-profit, or not-for-profit agencies are eligible to apply for funds under this Request for Applications. The funds will be distributed as a grant. The funding opportunity is not limited to those who currently have a contract award from the Department of Human Services.

H. Questions and Answers

Each applicant must have access to the Internet. The Department's website will contain information regarding the RFA. It is the responsibility of each applicant to monitor that website and comply with any instructions or requirements relating to the RFA.

"Frequently Asked Questions with Answers" will be posted on the OECD website at www.early the site will be updated periodically.

I. Award Process

It is anticipated that applicants will be notified by the Department regarding funding decisions at the end of June 2014. Successful applicants will be notified in writing by letter from the Secretary of the Department of Human Services. A Notice of Grant Award is not equivalent to an agreement with the Department to commence providing service. Successful applicants will receive the FY 15 Community Service Agreement or an amendment thereto for their signature and return. The release of this RFA does not compel the Department of Human Services to make an award. 

J. Review Panel

Applications will be reviewed by a panel established by staff from DHS, which may include Department staff, Illinois State Board of Education and the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development staff familiar with the requirements of the program, academics and experts in relevant field, and community-based social services providers who are not party to applications for funding under this announcement. Panel members will initially read and evaluate applications independently using guidelines furnished by DHS and will subsequently participate in review panel meetings during which applications will be reviewed and scored collectively.

The Department reserves the right to consider factors other than the applicant's final score in determining final grant recommendations. Such factors may include (but are not limited to) geographic service area, applicant's past performance, or degree of need for services.

K. Estimated Length of Agreement

The Department estimates that the term of the agreement resulting from this RFA will be upon execution of the Community Services Agreement and continuing through December 2016. Each state fiscal year will require both parties to sign a Community Services Agreement and be dependent upon the Grantee's performance and adherence to program requirements and the availability of funds.

L. Withdrawal Disclaimer

The Department of Human Services may withdraw this Request for Applications at any time prior to the actual time a fully executed agreement is filed with the State of Illinois Comptroller's Office.

M. Modifications to Applications by Applicants

To make a modification to an application after it has been submitted, the applicant must submit a complete replacement application package, as described above under "Application Submission Requirements," accompanied by a letter requesting that the replacement application be considered. This must be received at the prescribed location by date and time designated under Item D.

N. Modifications to Application by DHS

If it becomes necessary or appropriate for DHS to change any part of the RFA, a modification to the RFA will be available from the Office of Early Childhood Development's (OECD) website: and it will be issued to all known recipients of the RFA. In case of such an unforeseen event, DHS will issue detailed instructions for how to proceed.

O.  Clarifications, Negotiations or Discussions Initiated by DHS

The Department may contact any applicant prior to the final award for the following purposes.

As part of the Department's review process, the Department may request an applicant clarify its application. An applicant may not be allowed to materially change its application in response to a request for clarification.

Discussions may be held to promote understanding of the Department's requirements and the applicant's application and to facilitate arriving at a contract that will be most advantageous to the State considering price and other evaluation factors set forth in the RFA.

When the Department knows or has reason to conclude that a mistake has been made, the Department shall ask the applicant to confirm the information. Situations in which confirmation should be requested include obvious or apparent errors on the face of the document or a price unreasonably lower than the price others submitted, or if the price is considerably high than what is currently paid for this type of services. If the applicant alleges a mistake, the application may be corrected or withdrawn following the conditions set forth by the State of Illinois.

P. DHS Grants Information Conference

There will be no mandatory attendance at a Grants Information Conference (formerly called Bidders Conferences). The elective Grants Information Conference call is scheduled for:

  • Date:March 24, 2014
  • Time:2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
  • Conference Line: 888-494-4032
  • Access Code: 7198518485

It will be helpful for attendees to have a copy of this RFA available during the Grants Information Conference call.

Q. Late Application/Responses

Late applications will not be opened or considered and will be automatically disqualified, but will be retained by the Department. The Department will notify all applicants whose application will not be considered because of lateness or non-compliance with application submission requirements. 

R.  Commencement of Service

The Department will not reimburse applicants for expenses incurred prior to the complete and final execution of the written grant agreement. If the applicant receives an award letter from the Secretary, then it is reasonable to assume that the Department will be forwarding the applicant a contract.

No services can be paid for prior to the full and complete execution of the contract and filing with the Illinois Office of the Comptroller.

S. Public Information

Some information submitted pursuant to this RFA is subject to the Illinois Freedom of Information Act. The successful applicant must recognize and accept that any material marked proprietary or confidential that must be made a part of the contract may be considered open for public inspection. Price information submitted by the successful applicants shall be considered public.

For applications that are not selected for funding, only the list of those submitting applications/responses shall be considered public. Any internal documentation used to determine grant selections will not be considered public information.

Applicant scores will NOT be made public. The Department may give applicants feedback about their application upon request and at the discretion of the Department.

T.  Contract

The legal agreement between DHS and the successful applicants will be in the form and format prescribed by DHS. The standard DHS Community Service Agreement (CSA) will be used as the grant agreement. Samples of this agreement may be found at and in Attachment E of this RFA If selected for funding, the applicant will be provided a DHS Community Service Agreement for their signature and return. Applicants must review the sample CSA and insure that they meet all requirements contained in the CSA. Applicants must note any exceptions contained in the CSA. All exceptions must be agreed to by DHS before awarding any grants and execution of the CSA.

U. Program Evaluation and Reporting Requirements

To assure accountability at all levels of service provision, the Department is implementing the practice of performance-based contracting with its grantee agencies. The articulation and achievement of measurable outcomes assure that we are carrying out the most effective programming possible.

V.  Training and Technical Assistance

Grantees must agree to receive consultation and technical assistance from authorized representatives of the Department. The grantee and collaborating partners will be required to be in attendance at site visits. Grantees will be required to attend regular meetings and training as provided by the Department or a sub-contractor of the Department. At a minimum, grantees should expect to send appropriate staff to two meetings and one statewide conference per year.

W. Congressional and Legislative Districts

On the required Application Cover Sheet, the applicant must provide, the Congressional District (by number), available at the following web site: and the Illinois House and Senate Legislative Districts (by number), available on the Illinois General Assembly web site at

X. Additional Information

The Department reserves the right to request additional information that could assist the Department with its award decision. Applicants are expected to provide the additional information within a reasonable period of time. Failure to provide the information could result in the rejection of the application.

Y.  Sectarian Issue

Applicant organizations may not expend federal or state funds for sectarian instruction, worship, prayer, or proselytization. If the applicant organization is a faith based or religious organization that offers such activities, these activities shall be voluntary for the individuals receiving services and offered separately from the program.

Z. Background Checks

Background checks are required for all program staff and volunteers who have one-on-one contact with children and youth. Funded programs will be required to have a written protocol on file requiring background checks, as well as evidence of their completion.

AA. Child Abuse/Neglect Reporting Mandate

Per the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act, adults working with children and youth under the age of 18 years old are mandated reporters for suspected child abuse and neglect. Funded programs must have a written protocol for identifying and reporting suspected incidents of child abuse or neglect.

BB. Hiring and Employment Policy

It is the policy of the Department to encourage cultural diversity in the work environment and to promote employment opportunities through its programs. The Department's philosophy is that the program workforce should appropriately reflect the populations to be served, with special attention given to hiring individuals indigenous to those communities. Consistent with Department policy, whenever a position becomes available, funded programs are encouraged to consider Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) clients for employment, contingent upon their qualifications in the area of education and work experience.



A. Intent of the RFA

The Department seeks to fund applicants to provide support services to early childhood programs serving at-risk preschool-aged children, including Preschool for All programs, Head Start programs, and licensed child care centers, in order to help them implement effective teaching practices known to foster developmental gains for at-risk children.


Illinois applied and was selected by the Federal Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services to receive the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant (RTT-ELC). The Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development (OECD) coordinates with Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and DHS, provides oversight to the grant, and coordinates with ISBE and DHS to implement the projects contained within the approved federal grant.

Illinois identified the following strategic priorities for the RTT-ELC Project:

  1. Deepening the integration of state supports to create a unified framework for all early learning and development programs
  2. Connecting the most-at-risk children with the supports and services they need
  3. Increasing program quality: From adequate to good and from good to great

This RFA will help to achieve the third priority. A key strategic focus of the grant is to not simply support programs in establishing and maintaining what is traditionally defined as "high-quality" services, but to ensure that programs are providing early learning services that are highly effective in supporting the school readiness of Children with High Needs.

ISBE provides funding through the Early Childhood Block Grant to approximately 462 Preschool for All programs that serve children ages three and four. These programs are required to implement a research-based curriculum aligned with the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards and to use developmentally-appropriate teaching methods1. Each Preschool for All classroom has up to 20 children and is led by a teacher who has an Illinois Teacher License with an Early Childhood Endorsement, and is

supported by an aide who meets the qualifications.

Similarly, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides funding to 47 Head Start grantees throughout the state who serve approximately 35,413 children ages three and four. Head Start programs must meet all of the Head Start Program Performance Standards (, which include a requirement that at least 50% of the lead teachers in each program have a bachelor's degree and specialized training in early childhood education. Head Start programs must also implement a research-based curriculum that is aligned with the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework and must establish school readiness goals for its participants.

Child care centers in Illinois must meet the Day Care Center Licensing Standards issued by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (Standards listed in Part 407 of Administrative Code Title 89 For classrooms serving preschool children, these requirements include a maximum group size of 20 children and at least two teaching staff, including one who has at least six college credits in early childhood development. Many child care centers, however, far exceed licensing requirements and provide a high quality early learning environment for children.

DHS works in close collaboration with the Governor's Office of Early Childhood Development, ISBE, and the Department of Children and Family Services to support high quality instruction in preschool classrooms throughout the state, regardless of their funding source.

1 23 Illinois Administrative Code 235. Title 23: Education and Cultural Resources. Subtitle A: Education. Chapter 1: State Board of Education. Subchapter f: Instruction for Specific Student Populations. Part 235 Early Childhood Block Grant

ExceleRate Illinois

ExceleRate Illinois is the State's new Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for early childhood programs, which has taken the place of the Quality Counts Quality Rating System. The State began the phase in of ExceleRate Illinois in June 2013. In an effort to support and motivate programs to achieve and sustain higher levels of program quality and to ensure that all children, particularly those at-risk for poor educational outcomes, receive high-quality services, all Illinois licensed child care programs, Preschool for All programs, center-based Prevention Initiative programs, and center-based Head Start and Early Head Start programs will be included in ExceleRate Illinois. For more information about ExceleRate Illinois, please see

ExceleRate Illinois was developed by key stakeholders in Illinois and was designed to evaluate, recognize, support, and communicate the level of quality in early childhood programs in Illinois. Specifically, ExceleRate Illinois provides:

  • A consistent definition of what constitutes high-quality early learning and development programs across a diverse range of settings,
  • An accountability framework for programs receiving public funding,
  • Pathways and support for continuous improvement, and
  • Useful information for parents and families to help them select the best program to meet their needs.

Programs participating in ExceleRate Illinois can demonstrate four levels of increasing quality, known as Circles of Quality, and may earn additional designations knows as Awards of Excellence. Each of the levels and designations has a distinct set of requirements that must be met. Requirements for each of the Circles of Quality can be found at Below is an abbreviated explanation of the ExceleRate levels.

  • Licensing: The first circle of quality equates to compliance with current Illinois licensing standards.
  • Bronze Circle of Quality: The Bronze Circle includes additional requirements for training and education.
  • Silver Circle of Quality: The Silver Circle includes a rigorous self-assessment and program improvement plan.
  • Gold Circle of Quality: The Gold Circle of Quality includes a validation of high quality by an independent assessor.

Because the requirements for Preschool for All programs (Early Childhood Block Grant Rules) and Head Start programs (Head Start Program Performance Standards) meet or exceed most requirements for the Gold Circle of Quality, it is expected that at least 85% of these programs will achieve the Gold Circle by December, 2016. Current monitoring data show that up to 45% of these programs currently do not meet the Gold Circle criteria, most often because their classroom scores on either the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scales (ECERS) or on the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) are too low.

Instructional Excellence

Recent research has demonstrated that many early childhood education programs-whether in schools, Head Start programs, or child care centers-fail to provide instruction that is optimal for supporting developmental gains for young children, especially those children who are at risk for school failure due to multiple risk factors such as family poverty, low parental education, young parental age, etc2. Even in programs with highly qualified teachers, teacher-child interactions often do not provide the level of

instructional support for concept development, vocabulary building, and knowledge gains that children need to be well-prepared for success in kindergarten and beyond. In addition, research has shown that many early childhood programs lack rich content in their curriculum that would support young children's learning in early language and literacy skills and their mathematical and scientific concept development.

Research has also demonstrated that the most effective method of strengthening teacher-child interactions and the implementation of rich preschool curriculum is embedded professional development that is supported by the program's instructional leader(s). Combining teachers' knowledge development with opportunities to practice new skills and reflect upon that practice produces the most improvement in teachers' actual classroom behavior and ultimately their students' success.

In recent years, many tools and approaches for supporting embedded professional development focused on teacher-child interactions and the implementation of content-rich preschool curriculum have been developed (see, for example, NCQTL However, many preschool programs' instructional leaders are not aware of these resources or lack the training or other supports to effectively make use of them.

2 Pianta, R. C., Barnett, W. S., Burchinal, M., & Thornburg, K. R. (2009). The effects of preschool education: What we know, how public policy is or is not aligned with the evidence base, and what we need to know. Psychological Science, 10 (2), 49-88.

B. Department's Need for Services (Rationale)

Through the federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant, the State received funds to provide supports to Preschool for All, Head Start, and child care programs serving at-risk children ages three to five throughout the state to enhance the instruction provided within their classrooms. This support will have two key objectives:

  1. To help Preschool for All and Head Start programs who are currently at the Silver Circle of Quality to achieve the Gold Circle of Quality within ExceleRate Illinois, the state's new Quality Rating and Improvement System (estimated to be approximately 400-500 programs); and
  2. To provide tools, resources, and technical assistance to build the capacity of all early childhood programs that service preschool age children to implement effective curriculum and professional development that facilitate excellent instruction.

C.  Objectives/Services to be Performed (the Approach)

The Department seeks applications for a competitive grant to provide services to Preschool for All, Head Start, and child care programs in the following areas.

  1. Content: (approximately 20% of grant funds)
    The successful grantee will identify and/or create (if needed), and broadly disseminate to early childhood programs, content and materials to enhance curriculum content and preschool instruction, including effective teacher-child interactions. Content and materials might include curriculum, training materials, or other resources. The emphasis will be on resources to be used by site- or program-level instructional leaders to provide embedded professional development to classroom staff.
  2. Training and technical assistance: (approximately 40% of grant funds)
    The successful grantee will train and provide technical assistance to program level (or other local level) instructional leaders focused on curriculum content and pedagogy, so that they may be able to provide embedded professional development to teachers. Instructional leaders may include principals, administrators, center directors, or lead teachers. The focus on instructional leaders will allow for the increase in capacity and sustainability of the initiatives within the programs.
  3. Mini grants: (approximately 40% of the grant funds)
    The successful grantee will administer mini-grants or provide other supports to early childhood programs so that teachers might be able to effectively participate in professional development to enhance their instruction. Mini-grants could be used for items such as release time or stipends for teachers, the purchase of evidence-based curriculum or resource materials, and travel to attend training.
    The Department will also be funding an evaluation and monitoring component for this project through a state university. The applicant will be required to work closely with the evaluator to accurately assess the success of the project. The evaluator will work with the grantee selected through this competition to:
    • Track program participants' experiences and outcomes.
    • Evaluate and report the degree to which the project has achieved all measurable objectives described in the RFA.
    • Evaluate the extent to which
      • program instructional leaders find the resources, materials, training and technical assistance useful and appropriate
      • participating programs implement embedded professional development to support instructional excellence
      • implementation of the embedded professional development leads to changes in teachers' behaviors that research has shown to typically lead to stronger student growth in the preschool years
      • participating programs achieve the Gold Circle of Quality in ExceleRate Illinois

D. Service Area

The Department is interested in funding proposals that provide support services to early childhood programs throughout the state. The Department, however, will select the applicant with the strongest proposal and, due to limited funds, will not necessarily fund support services in all areas of the state.

E. Mandatory Requirements of Applicants

Interested applicants should take note of the following program specific mandatory requirements. Other non-program specific requirements are found in Part 1 of this RFA

  1. Eligible Applicants - Public, private, for-profit, or not-for-profit agencies are eligible to apply for these funds.
  2. Agency Experience - The applicant organization should be able to demonstrate experience in the provision of support services to early childhood programs to successfully enhance their instructional quality. Additionally, the applicant organization should demonstrate experience in working with early childhood programs that serve at-risk children. Applicants with a strong familiarity of the other systems, programs, and services available through local, state and federal providers will be viewed favorably.
  3. Staffing - Programs must utilize existing staff or recruit and hire staff for the program that are qualified for their positions through education, experience, and/or training.
  4. Cultural and Linguistic Competency - Overall, services must be provided in a culturally sensitive manner. Providers must understand, acknowledge, and respect the cultural differences among early childhood programs across the state and provide services in a relevant, competent and appropriate manner in accordance with these differences.

F. Award Amount

DHS anticipates awarding up to $3,600,000 for support services to assist early childhood programs to achieve Preschool Instructional Excellence. Funding awards will be made to those who propose evidence-based, culturally-sensitive, and cost-effective plans and will be based upon the number of and types of programs applicants propose to serve.

DHS seeks to ensure that support services are provided in a variety of locations throughout the state. With limited resources, DHS will fund those it considers to be the best applications. Neither is the agency bound to fund supports for areas throughout the state. Priority will be given to proposals that DHS believes will have the greatest impact on the largest number of programs.


Applicants must submit an application that contains the information outlined below. Each section must have a heading that corresponds to the headings listed below. If the applicant believes that the subject has been adequately addressed in another part of the application narrative, then provide the cross-reference to the appropriate part of the narrative. The narrative portion must follow the page guidelines and limits set for in each section and must be in the specified order below. Exceeding the prescribed page limits is grounds for automatic disqualification. See page 5 of this RFA for specifications about page and font size requirements.

Applications will be reviewed and evaluated using the criteria described in this section. The corresponding point values indicate the relative importance placed on each review criterion. Points will be allocated based on the extent to which the application addresses each of the criteria listed. Applicants should address these criteria in their application materials, as they are the basis upon which competing applications will be judged during the objective review.

A. Executive Summary (2 page maximum) - Not scored

  • State the total amount of funds requested.
  • Address the need for support services for the community/target population.
  • Describe the proposed type and number of programs the applicant proposes to serve with these funds during the fiscal years of operation.
  • Describe the community (ies), county (ies), school(s), or Chicago community area(s) to be served with these funds.
  • Provide a clear overview of the services you propose to provide with these funds.

B. Organization Qualifications/Organizational Capacity (7 page maximum) (25 points)

The purpose of this section is for the applicant to present an accurate picture of the agency's ability to provide the support services to early childhood programs to enhance their quality. Applicants will be scored on their demonstrated ability, experience, qualifications, and capacity will allow them to successfully implement the proposed program.

  1. Organization's Mission, History and Background (5 Points):
    • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the applicant demonstrates:
      • How the organization's history, background, and past achievements demonstrate success working on similar projects and with similar populations and how this experience positions the organization to be successful with the proposed project.
      • The organization's ability to provide timely and efficient services to improve center program instructional quality.
    • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
      • Organization's mission statement.
      • Description of current relevant training and technical assistance programs and total number of clients (i.e., programs) served in each program
      • Organization history, milestones, major achievements
      • Geographic area served
      • Description of how the applicant is experienced or poised to work within communities across Illinois, including the City of Chicago
      • Description of relevant experience providing trainings to preschool teachers who teach high need children
  2. Organizational Experience (10 Points):
    • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the applicant demonstrates:
      • Experience in supporting effective embedded professional development that leads to improvements in preschool teachers' implementation of effective instruction and content-rich curriculum.
      • Familiarity with diverse preschool settings in Illinois.
    • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
      • Description of organization's readiness and capacity for service delivery. Include any linkages that are already in place with other service providers or planned subcontractors.
      • Evidence that the applicant is experienced and capable of developing, adapting, and/or disseminating resources to support embedded professional development focused on preschool instruction and curriculum. Describe prior experience working with early childhood programs to help them increase their preschool instructional quality. Include in the proposal the theory of action that guides and informs the supports that will be provided to programs. Provide specific examples of successful and effective work to enhance preschool instructional quality.
      • Involvement with existing state and/or national advisory groups focused on strengthening early childhood education programs.
      • Collaborative relationships, if any, with community partners in Illinois related to providing support services for early childhood programs to achieve high levels of instructional quality.
  3. Organizational Capacity: (10 Points):
    • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the application demonstrates:
      • Capacity to complete the work as planned and to effectively administer and account for the funding provided.
      • That identified existing staff and/or proposed new staff have the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to implement the proposed project with high quality.
      • Procedure's are in place for conducting background checks, as needed, for staff that will work in or visit settings where children are served.
      • Applicant's capabilities to track and monitor support services and performance outcomes of programs and to effectively account for expenditure of grant funds.
    • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
      • Appendix A: Brief Resumes (no more than two pages) of the applicant Executive Director and Program or Project Director. Also include a summary of the qualifications of the additional staff that would be involved in the project. Include in the appendix a brief resume for identified staff and a job description for any staff to be hired for the project.
      • Appendix B: Evidence of staff qualifications, including information about their specific experience working with center and/or school-based early childhood programs to promote instructional excellence. If training is needed, describe what those training needs are, as well as the agency's willingness to ensure that all staff in need of training receive it prior to commencement of service delivery. Describe procedures to ensure program staff is capable and sensitive to working with the target population.
      • Appendix C: Organizational chart of the applicant showing where the program and its staff will be placed. If subcontractors will be used, include the relationship with those organizations in the chart.
      • Appendix D: Letters of reference from three organizations or agencies for which the applicant has provided similar or comparable services as those in the proposal.
      • Appendix F: Copy of the most recent audited financial statement.

C. Application (20 page maximum) (65 Points)

  1. Purpose of Funding
    • The purpose of this section is for the applicant to describe the design and approach of the proposed program and how it will meet the needs of the population it plans to serve.
      1. Development, adaptation and dissemination of resources for instructional leaders (15 Points):
        • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the application demonstrates:
          • A plan to develop and/or adapt, and widely disseminate to early childhood programs across the state, high quality materials to support embedded professional development focused on strengthening preschool instruction and curriculum.
        • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
          • Describe the proposed framework or model for supporting programs to strengthen instruction and curriculum in preschool classrooms. Specify how the proposed approach addresses each component of the Framework for Effective Everyday Practice developed by the National Center on Quality Teaching and Learning, including 1) engaging interactions and environments; 2) research-based curricula and teaching practices; 3) on-going child assessment; and 4) highly individualized teaching and learning, as well as the pedagogical practices which link these components into an effective whole.
          • Explain the research/evidence base that supports the proposed approach, including a proven theory of action for how supports will help early childhood programs achieve higher levels of instructional quality.
          • Describe how materials and resources will be disseminated to preschool programs throughout the state, including the extent to which physical copies of resources will be provided to instructional leaders for their use in providing embedded professional development. Clearly indicate any cost sharing that will be expected of programs for use of the materials and resources, if the full cost will not be covered by this grant award.
          • Describe how resources and materials will continue to be available to programs beyond the term of this grant, and any cost sharing that is expected to be required of programs that access and/or use the resources after the term of the grant.
          • How services will be delivered in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner and in a setting appropriate to the target population.
          • Training and technical assistance for program instructional leaders
      2. Training and technical assistance for program instructional leaders (30 Points):
        • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the application demonstrates:
          • The ability to provide effective technical assistance to program level (or other local level) instructional leaders focused on curriculum content and pedagogy, so that they may be able to provide embedded professional development to teachers. A cost-effective approach to sustaining the grains in instructional leaders' skills developed through this project.
        • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
          • Explain the approach for working with center and school-based administrators and staff in Gold and Silver programs to implement embedded professional development using the resources described in section B-1 above. Clearly describe the anticipated number of program leaders that will receive training and/or technical assistance, and the intensity and duration of training and technical assistance that will be provided to each.
          • Describe how the proposed plan will leverage and build upon existing state or local structures or systems and result in increased capacity within the state to sustain supports to preschool programs focusing on instructional excellence.
          • Discuss any resources, materials, or structures that might be available after the grant ends that could be used support programs in the future.
          • Describe how services will be delivered in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner and in a setting appropriate to the target population.
      3. Small sub-grants to preschool programs (15 Points):
        • Applicants will be scored on the extent to which the application demonstrates:
          • An effective approach for administering over $1 million, subject to availability, in small sub-grants to programs (or consortia of programs) to support the successful implementation of embedded professional development.
        • Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following descriptions.
          • Describe the anticipated focus of the grants (i.e., release time for staff, hiring of instructional coaches or other consultants, or other supports), and the anticipated number of programs that will receive funding.
          • Describe the process and criteria that will be used to select recipients of sub-grants, and how sub-grantees will be monitored to ensure that the funds were used for the intended purpose.
      4. Program timeline and workplan (5 Points):
        • Describe program implementation timeline for each fiscal year. Include:
          • When the initial activities will begin
          • A description/planned dates for:
            • Key meetings with partners
            • Development of program implementation structure
            • Hiring of personnel, as needed
            • Development, adaptation, and dissemination of resource materials
            • Provision of training and technical assistance to early childhood program instructional leaders
            • Implementation of small sub-grants
            • Evaluation of program impact and success
            • Other plan components as needed
            • A description of who will be responsible for each activity and/or component of the workplan

D. Budget and Budget Justification (7 page maximum) (10 Points)

This section will evaluate the extent to which:

  • The project's costs are appropriate and reasonable in view of:
    • the activities to be carried out.
    • the types and number of programs to be served.
    • the anticipated outcomes.
  • The costs are allowable, defined by federal rules established for grants and specific rules established for Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge funding.

Budget tables do NOT have to be double-spaced. Applicants can single space budget tables if preferred.

Information in this section should include, but not be limited to, the following.

  • Completed Budget Forms found in the Attachments, according to Allowable Costs.
  • Provide a Budget Narrative describing how appropriate resources and personnel have been allocated for the tasks and activities described.
  • Clearly present any staff training and start-up funds. Reasonable start-up costs may be allowed, but the proposal must indicate how those activities would be completed in a brief, initial start-up period.
  • Budgets must clearly identify direct/indirect costs. Indirect costs may not exceed 15% of the total budget. An indirect cost rate may only be used if the applicant has a federal indirect rate approved by the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services or the Illinois Department of Human Services. Documentation of the rate approval must be provided as part of the Budget package.
  • Travel to and from regularly scheduled meetings with DHS and other grantees should also be included in the budget. Attendance at quarterly grantee meetings is required.


Attachments A, B, and C are also posted separately as a Word document. Please use the Word document to complete the Attachments.