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Learn about developing issues and policies related to early childhood education.


Think Small Blog

Check out our blog for information on a variety of topics, including timely updates on policy issues.

Early Education Spotlight is an ongoing series that showcases great work happening in child care and preschool settings across Minnesota. From innovative early learning programs to parent perspectives on what works, check out the Early Education Spotlight for unique examples of Minnesota’s early learning successes.


Early Education Spotlight: Little Angels Child Care

Early Education Spotlight: Bloom Early Learning and Child Care

View more Early Education Spotlights here.

Parent Aware

Parent Aware is the statewide quality ratings system for early learning programs. A four-year statewide rollout of Parent Aware was completed in January of 2015, bringing the same measuring stick of quality to early learning in all settings including Head Start, center and homebased, public and private programs. It promotes research-based best practices among participating programs through training and coaching, then rates them on a scale of one to four stars. Parents can access the ratings information to determine which early childhood program will be best for their child and family.

In 2016, Child Trends conducted a study to examine the extent to which the rating process and the four-star quality ratings that are awarded are fair, accurate and meaningful. The report found that Parent Aware “has integrity as a framework for building and connecting efforts to support all types of early care and education programs in Minnesota”.  See more in the Initial Validation Brief. You can also read the Executive Summary or Full Report for more information. 


Early Learning Scholarships

Early Learning Scholarships allow eligible low-income families throughout the state to find and choose the quality early learning program that meets their needs.

A 2016 report stated that children who attended high-quality programs using scholarships made gains in literacy skills. Find all the details here.


Pre-Kindergarten in Minnesota

The Pre-K to 3 Design Team, a group of early childhood stakeholders convened by the West Central Initiative, with support from the McKnight Foundation, is recommending an approach for providing broad access to high-quality, preschool programming for four year olds in a mixed delivery context.

Some of the findings include:

  • Preschool program quality is more important than program type
  • A mixed delivery system best supports family choice
  • Local communities need to design solutions that will work best for their unique needs 

View the full report here.