Early Learning:
About Early Learning

Early Learning...

Early Learning at ED

The goal for early learning is to 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 young children, including children with disabilities and those who are English Learners, the department administers programs and promotes initiatives that increase access to high-quality programs, improve the early learning workforce, and build state capacity to support high-quality programs and ensure program effectiveness.

The Office of Early Learning (OEL) and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) have primary responsibility for the department’s key early learning investments and the Deputy Assistant Secretary on Policy and Early Learning in the OEL is responsible for leading and coordinating ED’s early learning agenda by collaborating across various program offices.

Early Learning Programs

ED has prioritized early learning as one of its key goals and woven throughout ED's strategic plan. In addition, early learning is integrated in many grant programs. Promise Neighborhoods Supports and Full Service Community Schools grants for communities to build a continuum of supports and services beginning from prenatal through college and career birth in high-need communities. Investing in Innovation (i3) supports improving student achievement and attainment in order to expand the implementation of, and investment in, innovative practices, including from preschool through third grade. Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program supports a comprehensive literacy from birth through grade 12. Demonstration Grants for Indian Children Supports school readiness projects for three- and four-year-old Indian children. Native Hawaiian Education and Alaska Native Educational Programs include projects with a focus on early learning.

Some of the key investments that focus on early learning include:

  • Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (IDEA Part C)
    IDEA Part C awards formula grants to the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Secretary of the Interior, and outlying areas to assist in implementing statewide systems of coordinated, comprehensive, multidisciplinary, interagency programs and making early intervention services available to children with disabilities, aged birth through 2, and their families.
  • Preschool Grants for Children with Disabilities
    IDEA—Part B 619. The IDEA Preschool Grants program provides formula grants to states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to make available special education and related services for children with disabilities aged 3 through 5
  • Early Learning Challenge (ELC)
    The ELC grants focus on improving early learning and development programs for young children by supporting states' efforts to:
    1. increase the number and percentage of low-income and disadvantaged children in each age group of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are enrolled in high-quality early learning programs;
    2. design and implement an integrated system of high-quality early learning programs and services; and
    3. ensure that any use of assessments conforms with the recommendations of the National Research Council's reports on early childhood.
  • Preschool Development Grants
    The Preschool Development Grants competition supports states to:
    1. build or enhance a preschool program infrastructure that would enable the delivery of high-quality preschool services to children, and
    2. expand high-quality preschool programs in targeted communities that would serve as models for expanding preschool to all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families.
  • Ready to Learn Television
    Ready to Learn Television supports the development of educational television and digital media targeted at preschool and early elementary school children and their families. Its general goal is to promote early learning and school readiness, with a particular interest in reaching low-income children.
  • Child Care Access Means Parents in School
    This program supports the participation of low-income parents in postsecondary education through the provision of campus-based child care services
  • Serving Preschool Children through Title I—Non-Regulatory Guidance
    This guidance provide clarity regarding how districts can use Title I Part ”A” funds to implement high-quality preschool programs for eligible children.


ED's Early Learning newsletter provides monthly updates to subscribers on early learning initiatives led by the Department and our partners across agencies and in the field. Join our mailing list to receive regular ED early learning updates and the monthly Early Learning newsletter. Past newsletters are also available.

Join our mailing list to receive regular ED early learning updates and the monthly Early Learning newsletter.

Last Modified: 06/21/2017