Bridging the Gap Between Early Learning and Kindergarten

Strong Start Community Grant

A smooth transition into kindergarten creates a foundation for children to build upon throughout the rest of their K-12 journey. Communities that strengthen the connective experience between early learning and the start of kindergarten set the stage for children to be successful in elementary school and beyond.

The Strong Start Community grant is supported by funding from the Federal Preschool Development Grant through Indiana FSSA’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning.

Lead Organizations for Selected Communities

Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County (Bloomington)
Community Foundation of Muncie & Delaware County, Inc. (Muncie)
Community Foundation of Wabash County (North Manchester)
East Washington School Corporation (New Pekin)
Manchester Community Schools (North Manchester)
Montgomery County Community Foundation (Crawfordsville)
MSD of Pike Township (Indianapolis)

Southwest Dubois County School Corporation (Huntingburg)
United Way of Elkhart and LaGrange Counties (Elkhart)
United Way of LaPorte County (LaPorte)
United Way of St. Joseph County (South Bend)
United Way of the Wabash Valley, Inc. (Terre Haute)
United Way of Wells County (Bluffton)
Wayne County Foundation (Richmond)
Zionsville Community Schools (Zionsville)

Get more info on the Strong Start Community Grant


Common questions about the Strong Start Community Grant

What is a Strong Start Community?

A Strong Start Community shows commitment to ensuring all children move effectively from early learning environments into the kindergarten classroom. The State of Indiana, with the support of a Preschool Development Grant, seeks to improve the kindergarten transition process in Hoosier communities. Informed by a national landscape review to identify best practices in other states and a competition to solicit local innovation, Strong Start Community is a new Hoosier model for ensuring effective kindergarten transitions. The federal grant funding, awarded to FSSA’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School-Learning in January 2019, supports a formal evaluation of the state’s birth-through-age-5 early childhood education programs and strategic planning to strengthen them.

What are the criteria?

1. Community participation

– Key stakeholder representation within transition team including (at minimum): early learning providers, K-12 district leadership, kindergarten teachers, community organizations and/or elected leaders, and families
– Formalized public and private partnership(s) forged in support of plan

2. Shared ownership between early childhood providers and K-12 stakeholders

–  Joint participation by ECE and K-12 stakeholders in planning process with presence of jointly and separately owned deliverables explicitly stated in plan

3. Teacher engagement

– At least one opportunity for pre-K and kindergarten teachers to shadow each other’s learning environments
– At least one joint professional development offering for pre-K and kindergarten teachers to learn, discuss and plan

4. Child and Family Readiness Supports

– At least 75% of incoming children and families engaged in meaningful activities
– Identification of at least one at-risk population and targeting at least one high-impact engagement activity
– Involvement of families in the planning and execution of efforts

5. Data utilization

– Conduct cross-functional discussion with stakeholders around readiness data at least once per year
– At least one best practice data-driven strategy incorporated into local plan

Who is eligible to submit a letter of intent?

Community planning teams that include cross-sector leaders from local government, K-12 districts, early learning providers, nonprofits and other community organizations are required to apply collaboratively. Only one submission will be accepted per community and it is up to the community planning team to determine the lead organization.

Grants must be made to a lead organization consisting of one of the following:

– K-12 district or board
– United Way
– Community Foundation

Letters of intent must be signed by an executive champion from the lead organization.

What is the funding source?

Strong Start Community is funded through Indiana’s Preschool Development Grant, as overseen by the Family and Social Service Agency’s Office of Early Childhood and Out-of-School Learning.

How much funding is available?

Early Learning Indiana will award 15 communities with up to a $25,000 grant.

What is the timeline?

• December 2019: Grant recipients are notified

• January 2020: Communities receive funds to build and execute local plan

• January – August 2020: Communities develop plans

• August 2020 – July 2021: Plans put into action for entering kindergarteners

What is required for the letter of intent?

Letter of intent should include the following information:

  • Name and mission statement of lead organization
  • Names, titles and organizations for all members of community planning team
  • Synopsis of community need
  • Potential impact of striving towards criteria
  • Description of how this effort builds on other community efforts (existing kindergarten readiness efforts, K-12 strategic plans, economic development goals, etc.)
  • Description of how you expect to leverage partners in the community to build a robust plan and the current status of partner relationships
  • Perceived community strengths and gaps related to the criteria

Submissions should be no more than 2-3 pages.

Additionally, two letters of support are needed from other members of the community planning team to demonstrate cross-sector participation and partnership between public and private entities. These letters can be from an elected official, early learning provider representative, either school or community-based, local early learning coalition leaders, chamber or local economic development group leaders, community or business partner or families.

How will submissions be evaluated?

Submissions will be evaluated on:

• Collaboration
• Readiness
• Feasibility

Priority will be given to ensure that participating communities are reflective of the Hoosier landscape.

Who is the contact for any questions?

Interested community teams and affiliated organizations have the opportunity to register for one of two webinars on December 17. Please contact Natalie Brake at for additional clarification.


Finding Solutions to Early Learning Challenges

Early learning experiences are essential, for Indiana’s children, families and communities. As the leading voice in early childhood, we seek to harness imagination and hard work, cultivating a learning ecosystem with bolder and better solutions to our early learning challenges.

The Strong Start Community Grant is part of Early Learning Indiana’s Solution Series.

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