Led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary on Policy and Early Learning, the Office of Early Learning works collaboratively with various program offices to drive the Early Learning Initiative at the U.S. Department of Education.
Promoting Early Learning
The Department's strategy for sustaining the President's 2020 college attainment goal depends on improving learning in the earliest years. The years from birth through age eight are the most critical for brain development, and significant evidence from research and evaluation demonstrate that participation in high-quality early learning programs will lead to both short- and long-term positive outcomes for all children, especially those with high needs, including increased school readiness and success and improved high school graduation and college attendance and completion.
The goal for early learning is Improve the health, social-emotional, and cognitive outcomes for all children from birth through 3rd grade, so that all children, particularly those with high needs, are on track for graduating from high school college- and career-ready. To enhance the quality of programs and services and improve outcomes for children from birth through 3rd grade, including children with disabilities and those who are English Learners, the Department will promote initiatives that increase access to high-quality programs, improve the early learning workforce, build the capacity of states and programs to develop and implement comprehensive early learning assessment systems, and ensure program effectiveness and accountability.
For more information, please see the Department of Education Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2011-2014 and the Department's FY 2012-13 Priority Performance Goals.
Supporting Early Learning
ED has a history of funding early learning programs. Some of the current investments include:
Race to the TopEarly Learning Challenge
Supports states' efforts to create comprehensive plans to build coordinated early learning and development systems and improve programs so that more children, especially those with high needs, will enter kindergarten ready to succeed.
IDEA Part C State Grants for Infants and Toddlers
Ensures that appropriate early intervention services are made available to infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families.
IDEA Part B Preschool State Grants
Provides special education and related services for children with disabilities ages 3 through 5.
IDEA Part B State Grants
Provides special education and related services for children with disabilities ages 3 through 21.
The Title I Program
Supports school and community-based preschool and K-3rd grade programs.
Supports planning grants for communities to build on the work of the Harlem Children's Zone.
Investing in Innovation (i3)
Supports improving student achievement and attainment in order to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices.
Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program
Develops and supports a comprehensive literacy initiative from birth through grade 12.
Even Start Family Literacy Program, Even Start for Indian Tribes and Tribal Organizations, and Migrant Education Even Start
Support family literacy projects that integrate early childhood education, adult literacy, parenting education, and interactive parent and child literacy activities.
Ready to Learn Television
Supports the development of educational programming and materials to increase school readiness for young children.
21st Century Community Learning Centers
Supports community learning centers to provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for young children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools.
Demonstration Grants for Indian Children
Supports school readiness projects for three- and four-year-old Indian children.
Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program
Supports the participation of low-income parents in postsecondary education through the provision of campus-based child care services.
Increasing Early Learning in the Proposed Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act
The Department's proposal for reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act supports a continuum of learning, beginning at birth, in order to close the achievement gap and ensure that every student graduates from high school ready to succeed in college and a career. Watch and listen to our early learning and ESEA stakeholders' forum on ED.gov Blog.
The President's Budget will raise the bar on quality across all publicly-funded early learning settings through investments in developing new standards and practices to improve outcomes, engaging families in their child's early learning and development, and strengthening the early education workforce.
Partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
ED is committed to working closely with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help States create coherent systems of early learning from birth through 3rd grade. The two agencies have been working together on a number of initiatives:
Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Program
Jointly administered by the two Departments, this program will set a high bar and reward States with the strongest plans to improve the quality of early learning and development programs.
Interagency Policy Board (IPB) on Early Learning
The IPB's mission is to improve the quality of early learning programs and outcomes for young children; increase the coordination of research, technical assistance and data systems; and advance the effectiveness of the early learning workforce among the major federally funded early learning programs across the two Departments.
Education-related resources and publications are available online in both English and Spanish, for families, educators and stakeholders. You may also call 1-800-USA-LEARN to speak to a resource specialist.
Technical assistance, research information, longitudinal studies and evaluations of early learning programs are available on-line. You may also call 1-800-USA-LEARN to speak to a resource specialist.
Early Learning Email Updates
Sign Up to Receive Periodic Email Updates on Early Learning from the U.S. Department of Education
Early Learning email updates are a free service offered by the Early learning Initiative to keep members of the early learning community up-to-date on information that is relevant to programs and activities serving children birth through 3rd grade.
- Five More States Secure RTT-ELC Grants
- 6/20/2012 Race to the Top-Early Learning ChallengePhase 2: Proposed Requirements [PDF, 246KB]
- Letter to Governors Announcing Winners [PDF]
Early Learning in the US Department of Education, remarks by Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Early Learning Jacqueline Jones at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI) Conference in Anaheim, CA. on November 5, 2010
Thirteen of the 49 highest-rated i3 applicants (27%) addressed the Competitive Priority on early learning to improve outcomes for high-need children birth through third grade for a total of $229 million, with $109 million of the proposals focused solely on Early Learning.
National Center for Education Research (NCER) Announces Funds to Examine the Early Learning WorkforceThe Availability of Early Childhood Education and Care in the United States: Exploring Links between Policy, Availability and Effects, 1990-2005