About Us

Early Learning Challenge

Grant Overview

The Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant focuses on building a successful state system for early learning and development and increasing access to high-quality programs and services for the children who need it most. At its core, the Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge demonstrates a strong commitment to make sure all children enter kindergarten with the skills, knowledge, and dispositions toward learning they need to be successful. It is designed to close the achievement gap between children with high needs and their peers and provides the opportunity for States to focus deeply on their early learning and development systems for young children.

Grant awards were organized around State commitments to five key areas of reform.

  1. Successful State Systems
  2. High-Quality, Accountable Programs
  3. Promoting Early Learning and Development Outcomes for Children
  4. A Great Early Childhood Education Workforce
  5. Measuring Outcomes and Progress

Awards were granted to applications that demonstrated the State’s commitment and capacity to building a statewide system that raises the quality of early learning and development programs so that all children receive the support they need. Applicants were awarded points for what a State had already achieved as well as the State’s plans for the future.

North Carolina was awarded $69.9 million for the period 2012-2016, without a state matching requirement. Overview of NC's Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge

At the core of North Carolina’s reform agenda are three overarching strategies:

  1. Strengthen standards, assessment and the capacity to collect and use data to drive program quality and continuous improvement;
  2. Invest in people and relationships to increase teacher and system effectiveness and sustain change;
  3. Target high-intensity supports and community infrastructure-building efforts to turn around poor outcomes for young children in our highest need counties.