About US - Office of Early Learning


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.

  • Even Start Family Literacy Program

    This program offers grants to support local family literacy projects that integrate early childhood education, adult literacy (adult basic and secondary-level education and instruction for English language learners), parenting education, and interactive parent and child literacy activities for low-income families with parents who are eligible for services under the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act and their children from birth through age 7. Teen parents and their children from birth through age 7 also are eligible. All participating families must be those most in need of program services.


  • Early Reading First (Title I, Part B, Subpart 2)

    The program supports the development of early childhood centers of excellence that focus on all areas of development, especially on the early language, cognitive, and pre-reading skills that prepare children for continued school success and that serve primarily children from low-income families.


  • Early Childhood Educator Professional Development Program

    The purpose is to promote school readiness and improved learning outcomes of young children by providing high quality professional development programs to improve the knowledge and skills of early childhood educators and caregivers who work in early childhood programs located in high-poverty communities and who serve primarily children from low-income families.


    Meet the Staff

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