Early Learning

The Minnesota Department of Education’s Division of Early Learning supports schools, communities and districts to implement inclusive and comprehensive prenatal through grade 3 systems aligned with World’s Best Workforce. Our vision is that all Minnesota children are prepared for kindergarten, third grade reading and lifelong learning. To support this vision, the following strategies are implemented by Early Learning:

  • Enhance system of prenatal through grade 3 leadership.
  • Expand access to high-quality education, services and instructional time for all children.
  • Strengthen and align instruction, assessment and curriculum.
  • Support evidence-based practices for family and community engagement.
  • Ensure a highly skilled workforce.
  • Use data to inform policy, planning, practice and professional development.
     

Enhance systems of prenatal through grade 3 leadership
Well-supported state and regional leadership is critical to ensuring best outcomes for Minnesota’s children. Through the Pre-K to Grade 3 Initiative, Early Learning supports school, community and district leadership in expanding the knowledge base that includes early childhood development and age-appropriate best practice in curriculum, instruction, assessment and data. Early Childhood Special Education Centers of Excellence are regionally positioned to ensure that early childhood professionals will have the knowledge, skills and supports necessary to be effective in their respective roles in order to increase the probability that young children with disabilities and their families achieve positive outcomes.

Expand access to high-quality education, services and instructional time for all children
Minnesota has made great strides in expanding access to high-quality education for children. Expanded preschool funding increases access to programming for 6,160 three- and four-year-olds annually through voluntary pre-kindergarten and school readiness plus. Early Learning Scholarships increase access to Parent Aware-rated programs statewide for more than 10,000 children annually.

Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) provides programming and services for families of small children through school districts based on community developed plans. School Readiness is district-implemented public preschool programming. Head Start supports the comprehensive development of children from birth to age 5 to promote school readiness for young children from low-income families. 

The state helps connect children to the resources they need through Help Me Grow. Children are required to receive a free and easy Early Childhood Screening before kindergarten entrance, and ideally, at age three. Part C and Part B supports children ages 0-2 and 3-5, respectively, access special education programs.

Strengthen and align instruction, assessment and curriculum
Minnesota has made great strides in revising early learning standards and comprehensive assessment through the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge grant. The Early Childhood Indicators of Progress (ECIPs), Minnesota’s early learning standards, were revised and expanded in 2016 for a common set of developmentally appropriate expectations for children ages birth to kindergarten. The state also grew the comprehensive assessment system to align with the ECIPs, including revising the Kindergarten Entry Profile (KEP) assessment tools and creating a network of statewide trainers.

Support evidence-based practices for family and community engagement
Family and community engagement is supported through the Minnesota Department of Education through trainings and leadership opportunities implemented within programs and through the state. Parent engagement is a central part of ECFE and Head Start. The state helps support leadership through the Pre-K through Grade 3 Initiative, the Interagency Early Intervention Committee, and Early Childhood Special Education Centers of Excellence.

Ensure a highly skilled workforce
A highly skilled workforce is critical to ensuring strong outcomes for Minnesota’s children. The Knowledge and Competency Framework for Educators was developed through Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge grant funding. The framework combines what an early childhood educator needs to know about research and theory, alongside the skills and abilities needed to work effectively in the field.

Use data to inform policy, planning, practice and professional development
To ensure efforts are impactful, the Division of Early Learning is driven by data-based decision making and ensuring schools, communities and districts have the information they need to make decisions. The Early Childhood Longitudinal Data System (ECLDs) is a critical tool to help our state answer questions about young children and their development and learning. Early Education Student helps to better understand children’s experiences prior to kindergarten. Common Course Catalog provides uniform information about courses that are taught by Minnesota teachers and completed by Minnesota students. Reading Well by Third Grade requires local school districts to post literacy plans that ensure all students are reading well by third grade.

To learn more about the work of the Division of Early Learning, contact mde.els@state.mn.us.