Early Learning Initiative

What's New

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:

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.

Promoting Early Learning for Success in School and in Life in FY2013

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.

  • Administration for Children and Families

Resources and Publications

Technical Assistance, Research and Evaluations

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.

Further information about early learning activities at ED can be found on the ED.gov Blog.

Past Notices

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