Innovation Zones
In 2012, Illinois was awarded a Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant to strengthen early childhood systems and kindergarten readiness for Illinois children. (The U.S. departments of Education and Health and Human Services provided the grant.)

Illinois Action for Children coordinates statewide Innovation Zone activities to help the state test strategies to increase the enrollment of children with very high needs in high quality early learning and development programs. The most effective strategies will be recommended for statewide or larger-scale adoption.

The Governor’s Office of Early Childhood development awarded the grant to the Innovation Zones based on several factors: level of concentrated need, presence of providers with a demonstrated interest in quality improvement, a history of collaboration among early education providers, and strong local support for early learning. Innovation Zones exist in the following communities across Illinois:

* The state expanded Innovation Zones to four new communities in April 2015.

The Work
The goal of Innovation Zone communities is to identify strategies that have the greatest impact on Illinois’ early learning priorities. Innovation Zones use a community systems development approach and a data-guided process based on the “Lean Start-Up.” These practices allow Innovation Zones to be adaptive and capture local learning for system modifications in policy, program, and practice.

For more information and updates about Innovation Zones, contact Leah Pouw at 773.564.8870

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