Washington Leads

Washington state has emerged as a leader in early learning, achieving significant progress through bipartisan commitments and major private, federal and state public investments.

  1. We created the Washington State Department of Early Learning, the nation’s first cabinet‐level early learning agency, and established Thrive by Five Washington, the state’s public‐private partnership for early learning. These two groups work closely together to build an early learning system that supports all young children and families.
  2. We created the Early Learning Action Alliance to coordinate and focus the state’s early learning advocacy efforts.
  3. We formally connected early learning with K‐12 through the Washington Early Learning Partnership, which includes the Department of Early Learning, Thrive by Five Washington and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. This was the first step in coordinating efforts from preschool through third grade.
  4. Thrive was chosen to be part of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Learning Labs, a key partnership that has helped Washington design early learning plans and programs that advance racial equity. A statewide Theory of Change is now being developed to ensure that all future early learning efforts support racial equity.
  5. We wrote a 10‐year Early Learning Plan, a comprehensive framework for supporting the healthy growth and development of all children from birth through third grade. This plan reflects the state’s leadership and commitment to nurturing the whole child from birth.
  6. We support and work with 10 regional Early Learning Coalitions as a way to authentically engage communities in building the state’s early learning system.
  7. We opened the nation’s 10th Educare facility to help showcase the impact of high‐quality early learning on school readiness for children from vulnerable families.
  8. We adopted a revised version of the Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines, to ensure that these guidelines support children from birth to third grade, are culturally relevant, reflect the latest research about child development and connect to the K‐12 system.
  9. We created the Home Visiting Services Account, matching public and private money to fund, support and evaluate evidence‐based, research‐based and promising home visiting programs for some of the state’ most vulnerable families with young children.
  10. Washington is home to the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences, an interdisciplinary center at the University of Washington, which holds the world’s first MEG brain‐imaging facility focused on children and employs two of the world’s leading experts in early learning and brain development.
  11. We were chosen to be the first “Innovation State” in Harvard’s Frontiers of Innovation initiative, committing to using science across all state systems to improve outcomes for vulnerable children.
  12. We support the annual Starting Strong Institute, which connects early care and education professionals with K‐3 teachers. Together, they discuss ways to align their work, to ensure that new skills and concepts prepare them for what they will learn next, and that each learning opportunity builds on children’s prior learning and experiences.
  13. We host Birth to Thrive Online, a nationally read blog that highlights the latest news, research, ideas and breakthroughs in early learning.
  14. We launched “Love. Talk. Play.” – a simple message campaign that supports parents as their child’s first and most important teachers by providing them with real‐life examples (such as diaper changing, making a meal or sharing a book) that show how to incorporate love, talk and play into everyday activities.
  15. We are building a Comprehensive Professional Development System, which includes a career lattice and core competencies for early care and education professionals.
  16. We implemented the Washington Assessment Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), welcoming parents as partners in their child’s education from day one. WaKIDS takes an inventory of each child’s development so children are able to make a smooth transition into kindergarten.
  17. We field tested and are now implementing a voluntary Quality Rating and improvement System for child care providers. We were one of the first states to conduct a randomized controlled trial, which found that when child care providers get one‐on‐one coaching and a modest amount of money to make changes to their program, the quality of the care they give children starts to go up – pretty quickly.
  18. We won a $60 million Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Grant to help us push this work forward!