Skip Navigation
Funding Opportunities | Search Funded Research Grants

Program Details

Grant Program: Early Learning Programs and Policies
Contact: Dr. Caroline Ebanks
(202) 245-8320


The Early Learning Programs and Policies (Early Learning) topic supports research on the improvement of school-readiness skills (e.g., pre-reading, language, vocabulary, early science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and social and behavioral competencies) of prekindergarten children (i.e., 3- to 5-year-olds).

Through this topic, the Institute supports research to reduce the academic disadvantage that many children from low-income families face when they begin formal schooling. This work should be center-based and may address curricula, teacher professional development, or instructional practices; early childhood policy and systems-level initiatives implemented at the federal, state, or local level; and/or assessments of children, teachers, classrooms, and program quality.

The long-term outcome of this research will include an array of tools and strategies (e.g., assessments, instructional approaches, programs, and policies) that are documented as effective for improving school readiness skills for prekindergarten children in center-based prekindergarten settings.


From 2002-2019, NCER has invested more than 169 million dollars in the Early Learning research topic to support 88 research projects. The funded research grants include 18 Exploration projects, 16 Development projects, 30 Efficacy studies, and 24 Measurement projects.

Prior to the launch of the Early Learning research topic in 2008, two projects focused on early learning, one Efficacy evaluation study and one Scale-up study, were funded through other research programs. These two projects are included in the list of Early Learning grants, and in the total investment described below.


Early Learning Programs and Policies began as a research topic area in fiscal year 2008 after earlier IES investments in early childhood research through the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research (PCER) program and subject matter specific topic areas. Prior to 2008, IES supported early childhood research through the PCER program, the National Center for Research on Early Childhood Education (National R&D Center), Cognition and Student Learning (CASL), Effective Teachers, Reading and Writing, and STEM research topics, and the Unsolicited program. Since 2008, IES has primarily funded early childhood research through the Early Learning topic area. NCER also supports early childhood research through the new Early Learning Network initiative and the Partnerships and Collaborations Focused on Problems of Practice or Policy grant program.

NCER Investment in Early Childhood Research (2002–2019)

Since 2002, IES has advanced the field of early childhood education by supporting research to address a wide range of child outcomes for prekindergarten children, and professional development for early childhood educators. IES has supported research to understand how and what young children learn, identify best practices to support instruction and learning in early childhood classrooms, improve and evaluate professional development for early childhood educators, and develop tools to observe and assess what children learn and know. Through the National Center for Education, IES has invested in the development and evaluation of interventions that target children’s school readiness skills; the development of assessment tools of children’s domain-specific skills; the development and evaluation of professional development programs to improve the quality of early childhood educators’ instructional practices and interactions in preschool classrooms; the establishment of partnerships between early childhood researchers and practitioners; studies to understand associations between processes, practices, policy initiatives and child outcomes; and evaluations of early childhood policy and practice initiatives.

Through the National Center for Education Research (NCER), the Institute has funded 172 early childhood research projects, including 162 research grants, 8 Small Business Innovation Research projects, and two PCER evaluation contracts. The total IES/NCER monetary investment in early childhood research is more than 351 million dollars. The NCER early childhood research portfolio includes grants awarded under several Education Research grant program research topics, the Early Learning Network initiative, Continuous Improvement in Education (CIRE-305H) topic area, the Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research (PCER) program, Evaluation of State and Local Education Programs and Policies (305E and 305H), Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships (305H), and the National Research Center on Early Childhood Education (National Research and Development center).

Visit the IES Early Childhood Education topic page for information about the Institute’s early childhood research, evaluation, and survey data collection projects and products.