Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge

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

Minnesota has begun to implement an ambitious plan for early learning reform that spans the 2012-2015 time frame of the grant.

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


Our first efforts are focused 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. Those areas that prove effective can then be implemented throughout the state.

Minnesota’s Early Learning Challenge plan has support from many partners, actively working together to achieve better results for Minnesota’s children. The plan provides a framework for us to work together on behalf of Minnesota’s youngest children.

Statewide Early Learning Listening Sessions and Survey... the results are in!
In November 2015, the Minnesota Departments of Education, Health and Human Services and the governor's Children's Cabinet partnered with the Minnesota Initiative Foundations and Minnesota’s Future to host regional community listening sessions to learn how we can be more effective in linking policies, programs and practices to ensure every child in Minnesota has a high-quality early education. More than 600 people joined us at these sessions to take part in this important discussion. In December, we sent out a survey covering the same topics and received over 2,000 responses. Kathy Thornburg from the federal Race to the Top--Early Learning Challenge support team reviewed the findings from the listening sessions and the survey, and provided a summary and recommendations on what Minnesota can do moving forward. See the full report below.

View Minnesota's Annual Performance Reports from 2012 through 2016

  • Transforming the School Readiness Study into the KEP Initiative Report  - 4/11/18
    This report provides an overview of how and why Minnesota Department of Education successfully developed a new, innovative, standards-based assessment model that honors local control through the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant. This report also reflects on the lessons learned from the first four years of the KEP as well as recommendations for the initiative moving forward.
  • Early Learning Listening Sessions and Survey Full Report  - 7/13/17
    This report provides a brief summary of Early Learning Listening Sessions and survey summary of results and recommendations. It was prepared for MDE by Kathy Thornburg, ELC TA State Support Team Member Susan Rohrbough, State Systems Specialist, Region V and the State Capacity Building Center, a service of the Office of Child Care
  • Transformation Zone Evaluation - Itasca - 6/12/17
    This report provides a brief summary of evaluation findings about the implementation and impacts of the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Scholarships and Title I PreK Incentives in Itasca County Transformation Zone across the three years of the evaluation (2012–2015). It also summarizes the long-term successes and lessons learned from implementing these two initiatives.
  • Race to the Top - Early Learning Scholarships Evaluation - 6/12/17
    This is the final annual report on the evaluation of Minnesota’s Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) focusing on the Race to the Top – Early Learning Scholarships.
  • Transformation Zone Evaluation - White Earth - 6/12/17
    This report provides a brief summary of evaluation findings about the implementation and impacts of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Scholarships and Title I PreK Incentives in the White Earth Transformation Zone across the three years of the evaluation (2012–2015). It also summarizes the long-term successes and lessons learned from implementing these two initiatives.
  • Transformation Zone Evaluation - Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood - 6/12/17
    This report provides a brief summary of evaluation findings about the implementation and impacts of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Scholarships and Title I PreK Incentives in the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood Transformation Zone across the three years of the evaluation (2012–2015). It also summarizes the long-term successes and lessons learned from implementing these two initiatives.
  • Transformation Zone Evaluation - Northside Achievement Zone - 6/9/17
    This report provides a brief summary of evaluation findings about the implementation and impacts of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) Scholarships and Title I PreK Incentives in the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) Transformation Zone across the three years of the evaluation (2012–2015). It also summarizes the long-term successes and lessons learned from implementing these two initiatives.