Early Learning Challenge

The Early Learning Challenge is the major federal funding initiative seeking to support states in building high quality systems to ensure that children with high needs and their families, including those who often do not have equitable access to high quality service, benefit from these new and ongoing efforts.  

Launched in 2011 as a joint initiative of the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services,  there have been three rounds of major grants under the Early Learning Challenge, with 20 states now participating. Much like the BUILD Initiative, and a major sign of success of BUILD’s systemic approach, the Early Learning Challenge supports states in their efforts to align, coordinate, and improve the quality of existing early learning and development programs across multiple funding streams that support children from birth through age five. The Early Learning Challenge focuses on the creation of a coherent system and services for quality early learning for young children, particularly those children at high risk. Through the Challenge, states focus on: creating high quality, accountable early learning programs through Quality Rating and Improvement Systems; supporting improved child development outcomes through health, family engagement and vigorous use of early learning state standards and assessments; strengthening the early childhood workforce; and measuring progress.  

Thirty-five states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico applied for the 2011 round of the Early Learning Challenge grants with nine states selected from this pool for Round 1 and five states selected for Round 2. For the 2013 third round of grants, new applications were submitted from 16 states plus the District of Columbia and six were selected. Awards ranged from $30 to $75 million with four states receiving $30 to $40 million; six states receiving $40 to $50 million; six states receiving $50 to $60 million; and four states receiving $60 to $75 million. 

Round 1: California, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island, Washington
Round 2: Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin
Round 3: Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont

Since the launch of the Challenge—perhaps the most significant foray by the federal government to support state leaders in their efforts to build a robust early learning system—the states have been busy moving from concept to implementation.

Rising to the Challenge: Building Effective Systems for Young Children and Families, a BUILD E-Book

The BUILD Initiative, with the help of many of the country’s early childhood leaders, has produced an E-Book, Rising to the Challenge: Building Effective Systems for Young Children and Families. Through this E-Book, we share learning from the initial implementation of the efforts, highlighting experience, trends and reflections stemming from the significant contribution from the federal investment in this strategic work. By documenting the experience of the states—as captured through interviews with state leaders—Rising to the Challenge provides a source of learning for all fifty states and territories and puts into practice our leadership commitment to continuous learning in the best interest of the children and families to whom we are all dedicated.

Prologue: Coming of Age: Review of Federal Childhood Policy 2000-2015 Prologue Executive Summary
Chapter 1: State Systems Building Through Governance Ch. 1 Executive Summary 
Chapter 2: Local Systems Building Through Coalitions Ch. 2 Executive Summary
Chapter 3: Early Learning-Health Connections Ch. 3 Executive Summary
Chapter 4: Trends and Innovations in Early Childhood Education Workforce Development
Ch. 4 Executive Summary
Chapter 5: P-3 Reform in Vision and in Practice Ch. 5 Executive Summary
Chapter 6: Improving Systems of Learning Through the Use of Child Standards and Assessments Ch. 6 Executive Summary
Chapter 7: Stacking the Blocks: A Look at Integrated Data Strategies
Ch. 7 Executive Summary
Chapter 8: Impact of the Early Learning Challenge on State Quality Rating and Improvement Systems Ch. 8 Executive Summary

Acknowledgements: We wish to especially thank Harriet Dichter who so ably managed the project and who worked with each author clarifying and editing the chapters. 

Great thanks to Joan Lombardi and Sherri Killins, who added so much to conceptualizing the project and who served as co-chairs of the Advisory Committee, bringing together Miriam Calderon; Jeff Capizzano, The Policy Equity Group; Debbie Chang, Nemours Health Policy & Prevention; Ellen Frede, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Acelero at the start of this project); Phyllis Glink, Irving Harris Foundation; Bette Hyde, Washington Department of Early Learning; Stacey Kennedy, Colorado Department of Human Services; Tammy Mann, Campagna Center; Hannah Matthews, CLASP; Carmel Martin, Center for American Progress;  Kris Perry, First Five Years Fund; Elliot Regenstein, Ounce of Prevention Fund; Yvette Sanchez Fuentes, National Alliance for Hispanic Families; Carla Thompson, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Albert Wat, National Governor’s Association; Sarah Weber, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Marcy Whitebook, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment; Ceil Zalkind, Advocates for the Children of New Jersey. 

Thank you to each of the authors and to all the amazing leaders in the ELC grantee states who shared their data, experiences, and insights.