New Mexico Kicks Off Early Learning Challenge

Award Will Help Build Statewide Systems of High-Quality Early Education Programs


SANTA FE – Today, Children, Youth and Families Department Secretary Yolanda Deines and Public Education Department Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera helped kick off the New Mexico Race to the Top/Early Learning Challenge at the Inn at Loretto in Santa Fe. The Challenge is an interagency effort between the Children, Youth and Families Department, the Public Education Department, and the Department of Health to modernize the state’s early childhood care and education system.

“Having the ability to improve our early learning and development programs for young children in New Mexico is a great opportunity,” said CYFD Secretary Yolanda Deines. “This program will provide all children in New Mexico an equitable opportunity to start school ready for success so that they are able to read at grade level by the third grade.”

New Mexico is one of five states who received a federal Race to the Top/Early Learning Challenge Fund award. The State of New Mexico received $25 million which will be used over the next four years. The award money will be utilized to create an integrated system of high-quality early learning programs, increase the number of low-income and disadvantaged pre-kindergarten children who are enrolled in these high-quality early learning programs, and align the early childhood system from kindergarten through third grade in the public schools.

“This is the beginning of many success stories for our early learners,” said PED Secretary-designate Hanna Skandera. “We are excited to take this critical step in improving student achievement in New Mexico.”

The Early Learning Challenge will focus on five major goals:

  1. Implement FOCUS (New Mexico’s newly revised Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (TQRIS).)
  2. Establish a Kindergarten Readiness Entry Assessment.
  3. Establish Early Childhood Investment Zones.
  4. Build a unified early learning data system.
  5. Increase the quality of the early childhood workforce.

The Early Learning Challenge Fund kick off will be the first meeting of the forty-five child care programs and five head start programs from throughout the state that have been selected from a pool of applicants to participate in the initial phase of the FOCUS TQRIS pilot.