Early Learning

The early childhood years from birth to the start of kindergarten are an important time of rapid growth and learning.  To support children’s development and assist in preparation for kindergarten entry, early childhood education programs and services are offered throughout Minnesota school districts and Head Start locations for children birth to five years and their families. These programs are administered by the Minnesota Department of Education. FInd more information about each on the pages listed at left.

Early Childhood Indicators of Progress
The Early Childhood Indicators of Progress (ECIPs) are Minnesota’s early learning standards; one set is for birth to age three and another is for age three to kindergarten entry. The standards help us share developmentally appropriate expectations for what children should know and be able to do at certain ages. They offer common language for assessing progress and supporting children and families.

We know parents are a child’s first teacher, and that each child develops at his or her own pace; therefore, the standards are not for high-stakes assessment. Instead, they help early childhood teachers and caregivers design learning experiences and talk with parents about a child’s progress.

Minnesota is updating the birth through kindergarten entrance standards in these areas: language, literacy, and communication; and social and emotional development. Review the current draft standards. 

The state is seeking public feedback from a broad audience through in-person sessions and an online survey. You are invited to attend feedback sessions to review the two learning areas being revised. For questions on the feedback sessions, call Christine Hennessey at 651-582-8668. Select a session date and location for details:

If you cannot attend an in-person session, please use the link below to access an online survey and provide feedback on the standards revisions. Provide online feedback on the standards.

For questions on the ECIPs or the revision process, please contact Eileen.Nelson@state.mn.us. This revision is part of our Race-to-the-Top Early Learning Grant.

Learn about the Early Learning Scholarships Program.

Find Local Program Information 
Early Childhood Screening, Head Start, Even Start, Early Childhood Family Education and School Readiness programs. Search online by county, school district or city to find early childhood programs.

The Minnesota Department of Education's (MDE) Early Learning Services Division offers information and resources for families that support learning and development for their children's future success in school through the state of Minnesota parent website. In partnership with the Working Family Resource Center, MDE offers weekly podcasts and monthly webinars about a variety of topics focusing on children’s development and learning for parents and their families. Visit the Minnesota Parents Know website.

The Office of Early Learning
Through a coordinated effort with the Minnesota Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, the Office of Early Learning (OEL) brings together staff from multiple agencies around common goals including the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge goals and Minnesota’s resulting State Plan. Through the office, important connections to programs and services such as the Minnesota Department of Education's early childhood and parenting education programs, the Department of Health’s Early Childhood Systems grant, the Women Infants and Children Program (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Foster Care, and the Department of Human Services’ child development services and child care assistance can be better aligned in order to improve children’s outcomes and readiness for kindergarten.

Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant
In December 2011, Minnesota was one of nine states awarded a federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant. This $45 million award for 2012-2015 is designed to improve early learning and development opportunities for Minnesota’s young children. The Early Learning Challenge grant addresses a critical need to provide more high-needs children from birth to five with access to high-quality early care and education programs.

In the months since receiving the grant, Minnesota has worked to begin implementing the ambitious plan for early learning reform. The plan focuses on five main areas:

  • Increasing early childhood program quality and accountability
  • Building a skilled early childhood workforce
  • Increasing access to quality early childhood programs for children with high needs
  • Measuring outcomes and progress
  • Aligning state infrastructure around these goals

Efforts are focused first on four high-need communities (known as the Transformation Zones): White Earth Reservation, Itasca County, St. Paul’s Promise Neighborhood, and Minneapolis’ North Side Achievement Zone. Work in these areas will provide and test practices that can then be implemented throughout the state.

Minnesota’s Early Learning Challenge plan is supported by the commitment of many partners actively working together to achieve better results for Minnesota’s children. It provides a framework for all of us to work together on behalf of Minnesota’s youngest children. For more information, e-mail Lisa Barnidge.

Early Connections: News from the Office of Early Learning
The Early Connections newsletter includes information and contacts for those working on behalf of young children and their families. Find the latest issue below; previous issues are located in the Archive.
Early Connections: News from the Office of Early Learning – June, 2013

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