New Jersey education officials learned Friday the state was not among the winners in the latest major federal education grant competition.

The federal Education Department informed nine others that they will be sharing $500 million to improve early childhood education programs.

Thirty-five states applied for the competitive grant called the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge.

New Jersey would have been in line for up to $60 million. It hoped to use the money for standardized tests to assess kindergarteners, and for more training for educators of young children.

State education officials say they will apply for $38 million in the next round of grants in the Race to the Top program, the Obama administration's system of incentives to states for trying new educational methods.

Friday's rejection came in contrast to one in 2010 when it was revealed that key information was missing from the state's application for a $400 million grant. Then-Education Commissioner

Bret Schundler was fired in the aftermath of that rejection. This time, Schundler's replacement, acting Commissioner Christopher Cerf, is emphasizing how closely the state worked with early childhood education advocates.

"The process of developing an application strengthened collaboration across state agencies and led to the development of a comprehensive plan that will serve as a roadmap for the future of early childhood education in New Jersey," Cerf said in a statement Friday. "We will not stop or let up on these reform efforts."

Cecelia Zalkind, the executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey praised the state's efforts.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)