Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge

The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) program aims to improve the quality of early learning and development and close the achievement gap for children with high needs. RTT-ELC grants focus on improving early learning and development programs for young children by supporting each State's efforts to:

  • Increase the number and percentage of low-income and disadvantaged children in each age group of infants, toddlers, and preschoolers who are enrolled in high-quality early learning programs;
  • Design and implement an integrated system of high-quality early learning programs and services; and
  • Ensure that any use of assessments conforms with the recommendations of the National Research Council's reports on early childhood.

RTT-ELC focuses on five key areas of reform:

  1. Establishing Successful State Systems by building on the State's existing strengths, ambitiously moving forward the State's early learning and development agenda, and carefully coordinating programs across agencies to ensure consistency and sustainability beyond the grant;
  2. Defining High-Quality, Accountable Programs by creating a common tiered quality rating and improvement system that is used across the State to evaluate and improve program performance and to inform families about program quality;
  3. Promoting Early Learning and Development Outcomes for Children to develop common standards within the State and assessments that measure child outcomes, address behavioral and health needs, and inform, engage and support families;
  4. Supporting a Great Early Childhood Education Workforce by providing professional development, career advancement opportunities, appropriate compensation, and a common set of standards for workforce knowledge and competencies; and
  5. Measuring Outcomes and Progress so that data can be used to inform early learning instruction and services and to assess whether children are entering kindergarten ready to succeed in elementary school.

RTT-ELC Highlights

ACF's Office of Early Childhood Development works closely with the Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning to guide and oversee the work of these RTT-ELC States. Currently, there are 20 States, divided into three (3) groups based on year of award, participating in the RTT-ELC Program.

Phase 1

On December 11, 2011, the White House announced the Phase 1 group of recipients Visit disclaimer page of the RTT-ELC grant and they were: 1) California, 2) Delaware, 3) Maryland, 4) Massachusetts, 5) Minnesota, 6) North Carolina, 7) Ohio, 8) Rhode Island, and 9) Washington.

Phase 2

On April 9, 2012, the Departments of Education and Health & Human Services announced the Phase 2 group of recipients Visit disclaimer page and they were: 1) Colorado, 2) Illinois, 3) New Mexico, 4) Oregon, and 5) Wisconsin.

Phase 3

On December 19, 2013, the Departments of Education and Health & Human Services announced the Phase 3 group of recipients Visit disclaimer page and they were: 1) Georgia, 2) Kentucky, 3) Michigan, 4) New Jersey, 5) Pennsylvania, and 6) Vermont.

Additional Resources



Last Reviewed Date: