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Each child will be honored, respected, and empowered to achieve success in school and life

The Office of Early Learning focuses on Pre-K - Grade 3 to support children's success in the early grades. The Office of Early Learning combines the Department's staffs in primary education and prekindergarten and promotes other linkages for reforming early education for North Carolina's children. Through this Office, the Department partners with the FirstSchool initiative of the FPG Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. FirstSchool is a Pre-K - Grade 3 initiative to promote public school efforts to become more responsive to the needs of an increasingly younger, more diverse population. FirstSchool unites the best of early childhood, elementary and special education.

Office of Early Learning Organizational Chart
(pdf, 62kb)


  • North Carolina Kindergarten Entry Assessment
    For the 2018-2019 school year – the fourth year of statewide implementation – schools in North Carolina will build on efforts started in 2015-2016 to apply the Kindergarten Entry Assessment to better understand the knowledge and skills with which students start school and to help them grow and learn. The Kindergarten Entry Formative Assessment Process is comprised of five critical components that focus on the whole child. It has been designed to be integrated into daily instruction, to allow a variety of strategies for collecting evidence, and to guide instruction around the individual needs of each child.

  • Early Learning and the Every Student Succeeds Act in North Carolina
    The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), signed into law in December 2015, bolsters federal support for early learning and provides opportunity to strengthen the birth-through-third grade continuum – a critical strategy to improve third grade reading proficiency. In September 2017, North Carolina submitted its state plan to comply with the federal law. Now, North Carolina Local Education Agencies (LEAs) are preparing their district ESSA plans for the 2018-19 academic year.
    As LEAs build their district ESSA plans, they will be required to engage early learning stakeholders. Stakeholders may include, but are not limited to, Head Start, Title 1, Smart Start, elementary school principals and teachers, child care administrators and teachers, Child Care Resource and Referral, Exceptional Children, McKinney Vento, NC Pre-K Committee, family engagement professionals, community college system, community organizations supporting dual language learners, health care providers, existing early childhood collaboratives (e.g., Campaign for Grade-Level Reading), higher education and others.
    The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) is partnering with the Office of Early Learning and the NC Head Start Collaborative Office at the Department of Public Instruction to support LEAs and early childhood community leaders in collaborating to develop the early learning components of the LEA's ESSA district plans.

    Please visit for additional information and/or contact:

    Carla Garrett, Title I Preschool Consultant, Office of Early Learning, NC Department of Public Instruction,
    Karen McKnight, M.Ed., Director, NC Head Start State Collaboration Office,
    Tracy Zimmerman, Executive Director, North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation,