Early Learning Challenge

In December 2011, Rhode Island was one of nine states awarded grants from the $500 million Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge fund, a competitive grant program jointly administered by the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. Rhode Island was awarded $50 million over four years to improve early learning and development opportunities for Rhode Island's young children.

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) was the lead agency for this initiative. The partnership includes the Department of Human Services (DHS), the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), the HEALTH Department, and the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF). The Rhode Island Early Learning Council provides ongoing leadership for Rhode Island's Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge effort.

As part of the grant implementation process, seven Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge projects were created, each focusing on distinct areas highlighted in Rhode Island’s grant application. The projects – Early Learning Workforce Development, Program Quality Improvement, Program Quality Standards Alignment and Measurement, Early Learning Standards and Development, Child Assessment, Early Learning Data System, and Grant Management – were each led by designated state department staff and are supported by a corresponding RI Early Learning Council subcommittee.

Exceed RI Logo


Rhode Island’s Race to the Top- Early Learning Challenge Grant initiative was named, Exceed. It publicly conveys the State’s commitment to early childhood development. The power in the name Exceed is that in one word it conveys the goal that all the statewide partners have for the children of Rhode Island. Exceed supports the children of Rhode Island to achieve new heights in their learning. These partners are committed to helping all children to Exceed. Check out Exceed’s website and subscribe to the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/exceedri.


On August 23, 2011, the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services released the final application – detailing requirements, priorities, selection criteria, and definitions – for the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge.

Rhode Island Early Learning Council

In June of 2010, Governor Carcieri established a 24 member Early Learning Council to work to ensure that Rhode Island children have access to high quality early learning experiences in a variety of settings. The Early Learning Council current co-chairs are Education Commissioner Ken Wagner and Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. The appointment of a state Early Learning Council is a provision of the federal 2007 Head Start Reauthorization Act. The Early Learning Council will facilitate the development and enhancement of high quality systems of early childhood education and care, from birth to age 8, with the goal of improving school readiness and success in school. The Council has developed a state plan that will seek to align resources to support high quality early care and education services and to improve coordination and collaboration among multiple agencies, organizations, and programs.

Additional information can be found on the Early Learning Council website.