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.

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. Additional information for parents can be found here.

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. 

Questions about ECIPs or the revision process? Contact Eileen.Nelson@state.mn.us. This revision is part of our Race-to-the-Top Early Learning Grant.

Defining School Readiness
We have created a definition of what children should know and be able to do in the beginning weeks of kindergarten. This work was informed by, and has direct ties to, the ECIPS and kindergarten academic standards. This definition may be used to assist districts in planning efforts related to World's Best Workforce and to PreK to Third Grade initiatives.

Learn about the Early Learning Scholarships Program.

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.

Since receiving the grant, Minnesota has worked to implement 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.

To see progress made to date, view Minnesota's Annual Performance Report - 2013.

Minnesota’s Early Learning Challenge plan is supported by the commitment of many partners provides a framework for all of us to work together on behalf of Minnesota’s youngest children. For more information, contact Lisa Barnidge.