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Office of Early Learning

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The Office of Early Learning (OEL) is the principal office charged with supporting the Department’s Early Learning Initiative with the goal of improving the health, social-emotional, and cognitive outcomes for children from birth through third grade, so that all children, particularly those with high needs, are on track for graduating from high school college- and career-ready.

OEL is headed by a Deputy Assistant Secretary who reports directly to the Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education and advises the Assistant Secretary, Deputy Assistant Secretaries, and other top officials of the Department on policy and administrative issues related to early learning.

In administering the programs assigned to it, OEL establishes cooperative relationships with other Departmental Principal Offices and with other Federal agencies and governmental and nongovernmental organizations as appropriate. For example, OEL jointly administers the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grants with the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Currently, OEL oversees the following grant programs:

The purpose of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) program is to improve the quality of early learning and close the achievement gap for children with high needs. The RTT-ELC grant program focuses on improving early learning for young children by supporting States' efforts to increase the number and percentage of children from low-income families and disadvantaged children in each age group of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers enrolled in high-quality early learning programs and designing and implementing an integrated system of high-quality early learning programs and services.
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. These grants would lay the groundwork to ensure that more States are ready to participate in the Preschool for All formula grant initiative proposed by the Administration.

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Last Modified: 01/31/2017