Early Learning and Development Guidelines
During the past decade, states have moved forward with initiatives to strengthen early childhood programming and emphasize greater accountability for child outcomes. The CCDBG Act and CCDF final rule require states to develop, maintain, or implement early learning and development guidelines (ELDGs) for statewide use by child care providers.
The ELDGs must be developmentally appropriate for children from birth to kindergarten entry, describe what such children should know and be able to do, and cover the essential domains of early childhood development—cognition, including language arts and mathematics; social, emotional, and physical development; and approaches toward learning. In addition, they must be incorporated into other parts of the child care system and align vertically and horizontally with the standards for other sectors (such as Prekindergarten, Head Start, Early Head Start, and private providers).
Early Learning and Development Guidelines Alignment Efforts
All states have developed ELDGs for preschool children and for infants and toddlers, both of which support the goal of school readiness. There is a growing trend among states to revise their ELDGs in order to align them across age groups and with kindergarten standards. In addition, states have incorporated ELDGs into their child care systems by using them to do the following:
- Define the content of training required to meet licensing requirements
- Define the content of training required for program quality improvement standards, such as quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) standards
- Define the content of training required for a career lattice or professional credential for use by 2-year and 4-year higher education faculty in developing credit-bearing professional development and degree programs
- Require programs (through licensing standards or quality improvement standards) to develop curricula or learning activities based on the voluntary ELDGs
- Develop state-approved curricula
In their CCDF Plans, Lead Agencies will describe how their ELDGs are research-based and developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate. They must also describe how they
- build upon themselves in a forward progression and are aligned with entry into kindergarten,
- are implemented in consultation with the state educational agency and the State Advisory Council; and
- are updated on a regular basis.
Lead Agencies will also indicate the age groups for which the state has established ELDGs: birth to 3 years, 3 to 5 years; or birth to 5 years.
Technical assistance is commonly used to support the understanding and use of ELDGs. The CCDF Plan asks Lead Agencies to indicate whether they provide technical assistance to child care providers to enhance children’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development and support children’s overall well-being. Technical assistance can support providers in developing and implementing curricula or learning activities and be linked to the state’s QRIS. Technical assistance can also be tailored to meet the needs of child care providers working with infants and toddlers, preschool-age children, and school-age children.
Lead Agencies will need to ensure that CCDF funds are not used to develop or implement any assessment that
- will be the sole basis for a child care provider being determined ineligible to participate in the program,
- will be used as the primary or sole basis to provide a reward or sanction for an individual provider,
- will be used as the primary or sole method for assessing program effectiveness, or
- will be used to deny children eligibility to participate in the program. 
Child assessments can be used to support learning or improve a classroom environment; target professional development; determine the need for health, mental health, disability, developmental delay, or family support services; obtain information for the quality improvement processes at the state level; or conduct a program evaluation for the purposes of providing program improvement and parent information.