Early Childhood Education
For current information on the Department's plans for preschool and early learning, visit

Archived Information

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  1. Early Childhood Initiative
  2. Early Childhood Education Programs
  3. Other Early Childhood Education Programs
  4. Parent Programs
  5. Resources for Parents
  6. Resources for Teachers and Administrators
  7. Research and Evaluations
  8. Publications
  9. new Listening and Learning About Early Learning Tour

1. Early Childhood Initiative

The years before a child reaches kindergarten are among the most critical in his or her life to influence learning. President Obama is committed to providing the support that our youngest children need to prepare to succeed later in school. The President supports a seamless and comprehensive set of services and support for children, from birth through age 5. Because the President is committed to helping all children succeed - regardless of where they spend their day - he is urging states to impose high standards across all publicly funded early learning settings, develop new programs to improve opportunities and outcomes, engage parents in their child's early learning and development, and improve the early education workforce.

The Administration strongly believes that, to be of high quality, an early childhood program must include a developmentally appropriate educational component. According to the influential National Academy of Sciences publication, Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers, "care and education cannot be thought of as separate entities in dealing with young children." To this end, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are working together to ensure that our children have a strong foundation in both the educational and the social-emotional domains that provide children with the preparation they need to enter kindergarten ready for success. The Presidential Early Learning Council will help to enhance the early learning and development of all of America's children.


2. Early Childhood Education Programs

Early Reading First program, established in the No Child Left Behind Act, provides competitive grants to school districts and pre-school programs, such as Head Start centers. The grants fund the development of model programs to support the school readiness of preschool-aged children, particularly those from low-income families. Program activities will prepare teachers to provide high-quality language, literacy, and pre-reading activities, using scientifically based research to support children's understanding of letters, letter sounds and the blending of sounds and words.

Even Start supports projects that provide educational services to low-income families, including parents eligible for services under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and their children from birth through age 7. The program improves the educational opportunities of children and their parents in low-income areas by integrating early childhood education, adult education, parenting education, and interactive literacy activities between parents and their children into "family literacy" programs.

The Special Education Preschool Grants and State Grants program ( Part B, Section 619 of IDEA), along with 6 percent of Special Education State grants, provides formula grants to states to make available special education and related services for 3- to 5-year-old children with disabilities. It supports early childhood programs that provide services needed to prepare young children with disabilities to enter and succeed in school.

The Special Education Grants for Infants and Families formula grant program (Part C of IDEA) assists States in implementing a coordinated statewide system of early intervention services to all children with disabilities, from birth through 2 years old, and their families.


3. Other Early Childhood Education Programs

Early Childhood Educator Professional Development Program is a competitive grant program that enables early childhood educators and caregivers working in high-poverty communities to participate in professional development activities that improve their knowledge and skills. The professional development activities focus on furthering children's language and literacy skills to help set them on the road to reading proficiency once they enter kindergarten.

Part D of the IDEA authorizes a variety of activities to help states and local communities facilitate systemic change toward improvement and positive results for children, youth and families, from birth through 21. These activities include research, deaf-blind, training and professional development, parent training and information centers, demonstration and outreach projects, state improvement projects, dissemination, technical assistance, congressionally mandated and technology applications.

The Reading is Fundamental/Inexpensive Book Distribution program awards an annual contract to Reading Is Fundamental, Inc. (RIF) to provide, through aid to local nonprofit groups and volunteer organizations, reading motivation activities. RIF encourages reading both inside and outside of school by allowing youngsters to select books to keep at home.

The Ready to Learn Television is designed to facilitate student academic achievement by supporting the development and distribution of educational video programming for preschool and elementary school children and their parents.

Foundations for Learning Grants supports projects that help children become ready for school. The program will focus on a child's emotional, social, and behavioral development that will coordinate with services through community resources for individualized support to children and their families.

Department of Health and Human Services Programs

  • The Child Care Bureau is dedicated to enhancing the quality, affordability, and availability of child care for all families. The Child Care Bureau administers federal funds to states, territories, and tribes to assist eligible low-income families, and families participating in the TANF (welfare) program, in accessing child care for children when the parents work or participate in allowable education or training activities. In addition, the Child Care Bureau funds a network of Technical Assistance projects that promote quality, strengthen program administration, support the goals of Good Start, Grow Smart (the president's early learning initiative), share research findings, and help policy makers, program administrators, communities, caregivers and parents understand and make good decisions about child care.

  • Head Start and Early Head Start are comprehensive child development programs that serve children from birth to age 5, pregnant women, and their families. They are child-focused programs and have the overall goal of increasing the school readiness of young children in low-income families.


4. Parent Programs

The Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRC) program provides resources that grantees can use in pursuit of the objectives of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The Special Education National Activities—Parent Information Centers program is designed to ensure that parents of children with disabilities receive training and information to help them improve educational outcomes for their children.

These organizations can help provide information or assistance related to early childhood education.


5. Resources for Parents

Helping Your Preschool Child: How well children will learn and develop and how well they will do in school depends on a number of things, including their health and physical well-being, social and emotional preparation, and language skills and general knowledge of the world. This booklet highlights techniques parents can use to encourage their children to develop the skills necessary for success in school and life by focusing on activities that make learning fun. (August 2002) en Español download files PDF (725K)

Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read, A Parent Guide: What parents can do at home to help young children become better readers, and what parents should expect to see at school.

Reading Tips for Parents: How to help children get ready to read and learn, what to look for in early reading programs, simple strategies for creating strong readers, and five components of reading.

Typical Language Accomplishments for Children, Birth to Age 6—Helping Your Child Become a Reader: Learning to read is built on a foundation of language skills that children start to learn at birth—a process that is both complicated and amazing. Most children develop certain skills as they move through the early stages of learning language.

If You Think There's a Problem—Helping Your Child Become a Reader: When a child is having a language or reading problem, the reason might be simple to understand and deal with or it might be complicated and require expert help. Full Text in English   En Espanol

Tool Kit for Hispanic Families: How to help your child succeed in school and resources that can help.

Parent Child Literacy Activity Calendar 2005-2006.


6. Resources for Teachers and Administrators

Federally Funded Early Childhood Technical Assistance Projects download files PDF

The Center for Early Literacy Learning will identify, promote, and support the utilization of evidence-based early literacy and language assessments, curricula, and instructional practices for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with disabilities.

National Center on High Quality Personnel in Inclusive Early Childhood Settings is designed to help increase the number of high quality early childhood personnel in inclusive early care and education settings through the development of cross-agency networks and state plans.

A Resource Guide from the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition (NCELA)
This resource is designed for those involved in the education of early childhood English language learners (young ELLs), including parents, educators, and policy makers. It is intended to enrich the knowledge base and educators understanding of the changing demographics of the young ELL population, issues relating to parents and families of young ELLs, and policy issues.

National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC): The National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center supports the implementation of the early childhood provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (NICHCY): Central source of information on infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities; the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; and research-based information on effective educational practices for individuals with disabilities.

Early Childhood Outcomes Center: Demonstrating Results for Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers with Disabilities and Their Families (ECO) Promotes the development and implementation of child and family outcome measures for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with disabilities.

Research and Training Center on Early Childhood Development (RTC): The RTC is designed to provide research-based information to parents and early childhood professionals on interventions associated with the healthy mental, behavioral, communication, early literacy, and social-emotional state of young children with or at risk for developmental disabilities.

Center for Evidence-Based Practice: Young Children with Challenging Behavior: The Center promotes the use of evidence-based practice to meet the needs of young children who have, or are at risk for, problem behavior.

Guide for Preschool Teachers, Child Care and Family Providers: What can be done to help children to develop their language abilities, increase their knowledge, become familiar with books and other printed materials, learn letters and sounds, recognize numbers, and learn to count.

Early Reading and Scientifically-Based Research: A presentation from the February 2003 National Title I Directors' Conference.

Eager to Learn: Educating Our Preschoolers: Suggestions for improving early childhood education in preschool, day care, and other settings.

Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children's Reading Success: How children learn to read and how adults can help them.

National Institute for Literacy National Early Literacy Panel download files PDF
The National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL), with funding from the National Institute for Literacy (NIFL), identified and convened the National Early Literacy Panel (NELP) to conduct a synthesis of scientific research on the development of early literacy in young children. The objective for convening the NELP was to identify interventions and practices that promote positive outcomes in literacy for preschool children.


7. Research and Evaluations

Longitudinal Studies

  • Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Birth cohort
    The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Birth Cohort is designed to provide decision makers, researchers, child care providers, teachers, and parents with detailed information about children's early learning experiences. The birth cohort of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-B) examines children's cognitive and physical development, health, nonparental care, and education from birth through kindergarten entry. Over samples of low and very low birth weight children, twins, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and other race/ethnic groups permit greater detail in analyses of those groups.

  • Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten
    The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 1998-99 (ECLS-K) is an ongoing study that focuses on children's early school experiences beginning with kindergarten and following children through 12th grade. The ECLS-K provides descriptive information on children's status at entry to school, their transition into school, and their progression through 12th grade. The longitudinal nature of the ECLS-K data enables researchers to study how a wide range of family, school, community, and individual factors are associated with school performance.

  • Special education:

    • National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study—NEILS The National Early Intervention Longitudinal Study (NEILS) is a national study of infants, toddlers, and their families receiving early intervention services under Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). NEILS is a longitudinal study that is following more than 3,338 children with disabilities or at risk for disabilities and their families through their experiences in early intervention and into early elementary school. The study provides information about the characteristics of children and families, the services they receive, and the outcomes they experience.
    • Pre-Elementary Education Longitudinal Study—PEELS
      Pre-Elementary Education Longitudinal Study (PEELS) is a study following over 3,000 children with disabilities as they progress through preschool and into their early elementary years. The children were 3 to 5 years old at the start of the study. For the first several years, PEELS was funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). It is now supported by the Department's National Center for Special Education Research in the Institute of Education Sciences. Westat has been contracted to manage this study, which will examine children's preschool experiences and outcomes, their transition to kindergarten, and their early elementary school experiences and outcomes.

Research Studies

  • The National Research Center on Early Childhood Education will conduct research that contributes to the solution of significant problems in early childhood education and will engage in leadership and dissemination activities with the early childhood policy, practitioner, and research communities. The Center's research will include work on inservice and preservice training of early childhood teachers, early childhood curricula in literacy and language development, and assessment of child outcomes in language and literacy.

  • Despite decades of federal, state, and local programs intended to support young children's preparation for schooling, children from families with low incomes continue to begin formal schooling at a disadvantage. Although research from the 1960s and 1970s has demonstrated that some children can benefit from participation in high-quality preschool programs, the applicability of this research to current programs and children is not clear. To provide evidence of the impact of contemporary preschool curricula, NCER is conducting a multi-site efficacy evaluation of 14 preschool curricula.

    The Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research (PCER) program (2002) (2003) is an evaluation of the efficacy of current preschool curricula. The program was created to address the lack of rigorous, systematic evaluations of preschool curricula currently in use by supporting small-scale efficacy evaluations of available preschool curricula that had not been rigorously evaluated. The evaluations were conducted using a common assessment protocol and a randomized experimental design.

    In 2002, the Institute of Education Sciences awarded grants to seven researchers to implement several widely used preschool curricula, with Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International collecting common data across the seven projects. In 2003 the Institute funded an additional five researchers, with Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), Inc. serving as their national evaluation coordinator. National evaluation data were collected in fall and spring of the preschool year and the spring of the kindergarten year. Data collection includes direct child assessments, parent interviews, teacher report on children's social skills, teacher interview, and direct classroom observations. The final sample included Head Start, Title 1, State Pre-K and private preschool programs serving over 2,000 children in 20 geographic locations implementing 13 different experimental preschool curricula.

  • Cognition and Student Learning

    The purpose of the Cognition and Student Learning research program is to improve student learning by bringing recent advances in cognitive science to (1) develop interventions—instructional approaches, practices, and curriculum—for improving student learning, (2) establish the efficacy of existing interventions and approaches for improving student learning with efficacy or replication trials, and (3) develop measurement tools that can be used to improve student learning and achievement. The long-term outcome of this program will be an array of tools and strategies (e.g., instructional approaches, computer tutors) that are based on principles of learning and information processing gained from cognitive science and that have been documented to be efficacious for improving learning in education delivery settings.

    The Cognition program is currently supporting five research projects to three investigator teams that target learning in early childhood. Each project is focused on developing and testing the efficacy of new curricula. In one project, the research team is evaluating the impact of teaching abstract principles of oddity and seriation on reading and mathematics learning in kindergarten. Another set of projects is examining whether using manipulatives facilitates or hinders mastery of the symbolic nature of letters and numbers in preschoolers. The final set of projects is examining how use of a simple board game with Head Start preschoolers can improve their understanding of the number line (0-10).

  • Mathematics and Science Education Research Program

    Through the Mathematics and Science Education research program , the Institute intends to support research to benefit children, as young as preschool aged, to fulfill five goals: (1) identifying curriculum and instructional practices associated with better mathematics or science outcomes, (2) developing new curricula and instructional approaches to mathematics and science education that will eventually result in improving mathematics and science achievement, (3) establishing the efficacy of fully developed curricula and instructional approaches to mathematics and science education, (4) providing evidence on the effectiveness of mathematics and science curricula and instructional approaches implemented at scale, and (5) developing and validating assessments for diagnosing sources of mathematics or science difficulties. The long-term outcome of this program will be an array of tools and strategies (e.g., curricula, programs) that have been demonstrated to be effective for improving mathematics and science learning and achievement.

    Currently, the Mathematics and Science Education program funds eight programs that address the needs of preschool and kindergarten children in the areas of mathematics and science. Of these projects, two projects are conducting larger scale evaluations of two separate, fully developed, preschool mathematics curricula. A separate program is evaluating a preschool and kindergarten mathematics curriculum that aims to build students mathematics and verbal skills. In addition to evaluating fully developed curriculum, five other projects are in the process of revising current curriculum or developing new curriculum for either preschool or kindergarten mathematics or science. All of these programs aim to increase achievement levels of students at-risk for developing mathematics and/or science difficulties.

  • Reading and Writing Education Research

    The Reading and Writing program of the Institute of Education Sciences focuses on curricula, instructional approaches, and assessments designed to support the development of proficient readers and writers from pre-kindergarten through high school.

    Through its Research on Reading and Writing grants program, the Institute intends to contribute to improvement of reading and writing skills by (1) identifying curriculum and instructional practices that are associated with better reading or writing outcomes as well as mediators and moderators of the relations between these practices and student outcomes, (2) developing new curricula or instructional approaches for teaching individuals reading, pre-reading, writing, or pre-writing skills or for addressing the underlying causes of reading or writing difficulties (e.g., poor oral language skills), (3) evaluating fully developed curricula or instructional approaches for teaching reading, pre-reading, writing, or pre-writing skills or for reducing/preventing reading or writing difficulties through efficacy or replication trials, (4) evaluating the effectiveness of curricula or instructional approaches for teaching reading, pre-reading, writing, or pre-writing skills that are implemented at scale, and (5) developing and validating assessments that can be used in instructional settings to identify sources of reading and writing difficulties. The long-term outcome of this program will be an array of tools and strategies (e.g., assessments, instructional approaches) that have been documented to be effective for improving reading and writing.

    Currently, seven of the projects supported under the Reading and Writing competition are targeting the pre-reading and pre-writing skills of preschool and kindergarten children. Each of these projects target students at-risk for school failure. Four of the projects are developing new curriculum designed to provide young learners with opportunities to expand the language and vocabulary knowledge necessary for successful reading comprehension. Three of the development projects also include a focus on English language learners. One project is determining the efficacy of a curriculum designed to facilitate preschool children's early achievements in print knowledge. Two projects are large-scale evaluations of preschool and kindergarten reading interventions.

  • Teacher Quality Grant Programs

    IES supports two Teacher Quality Research programs: Teacher Quality-Reading and Writing and Teacher Quality-Mathematics and Science. The purpose of these programs is to develop and provide evidence about an array of tools, strategies, and programs that will improve teachers' knowledge and skills, and that can validly assess their performance in ways that improve student learning in reading, writing, mathematics, and science. All of the projects are aimed at teachers of students who are at-risk of below average achievement.

    These grant programs pursue five goals: (1) identification of existing pre-service teacher preparation or in-service professional development programs (PD) and practices for teaching these subjects that appear promising and that might ultimately be moved into efficacy trials as described in goal three, (2) development of new pre-service or professional development programs and practices, (3) establishing efficacy of existing pre-service or professional development programs and practices, (4) rigorous evaluations of teacher preparation or professional development programs taken to scale, and (5) development and validation of assessments of teacher subject matter and pedagogical knowledge.

    Currently, there are three preschool studies in the Teacher Quality Research-Reading and Writing program. Two of these are development projects. One of them is developing and testing a PD program for preschool teachers of Latino students. The other is developing and testing a PD program for Head Start teachers, and comparing teachers who receive on-site coaching to those who receive web-based remote-coaching. The third study in this program is testing the efficacy of a PD program that has some preliminary evidence of effectiveness and is delivered through face-to-face instruction and comparing it to a version is delivered through interactive television, and to another group of teachers receiving typical PD. The Teacher Quality Research-Mathematics and Science program, is supporting one preschool related project, which is developing and testing a credit-bearing PD program in science for Head Start teachers. The program includes content-based sessions, mentoring, videotaping of instruction, and teacher study groups. Outcomes for teachers and students will be compared to preschool classes whose teachers receive only typical professional development.

Evaluation Studies

  • Even Start Classroom Literacy Interventions and Outcomes Study
    The Even Start Classroom Literacy Interventions and Outcomes Study is testing four intervention models within Even Start family literacy projects. The study design includes random assignment of Even Start projects to receive one of the four intervention models or to participate in an "as is" control group. The key question for CLIO is whether explicit, focused literacy instruction in the early childhood component combined with parenting education will produce better outcomes than current Even Start classroom instruction. In addition, CLIO is assessing the contribution of the enhanced parenting component of the CLIO interventions.

  • Early Reading First National Evaluation
    Early Reading First (ERF) National Evaluation, a Congressionally mandated study, will assess the impact of ERF grants on children's language and literacy outcomes and on preschools' language and literacy instruction and practice. The study is using quasi-experimental design (regression discontinuity) to compare ERF preschools with preschools that applied for but did not receive funding.


8. Publications

Publications on Early Childhood from ED


9. new Listening and Learning About Early Learning Tour

The U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Health and Human Services (HHS) hosted four public and expert input meetings: Listening and Learning About Early Learning. Find presentation materials from the meetings as well as biographical information about the experts who made presentations.


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Last Modified: 03/25/2014