Happy Birthday, RETOC!

It took seven large stakeholder meetings, small workgroups in-between, Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 7.55.05 PMand the commitment of more than 150 individuals to complete it, and, in the end, the Racial Equity Theory of Change (RETOC) gave us a shared roadmap for how we can live in a state where racial disparities cease to exist for children birth to age 8.
While this document is important, the partnerships and shared commitment that resulted from that process are just as important. Let’s celebrate the first birthday of the RETOC with a few highlights:

  • All 10 Early Learning Regional Coalitions intentionally make new partnerships with communities serving children furthest from opportunity, look at data disaggregated by race and ethnicity to better understand the regions they represent, advocate in Olympia regarding the power and importance of community voice, and in many cases attempt to weave a racial equity lens throughout their entire body of work.
  • Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) data paint a clearer picture of the extent of disparities for children of color (particularly in math) as they enter kindergarten. This analysis has led to a systemic focus on numeracy.
  • Thrive launches its Advancing Racial Equity grants strategy with five grants totaling $275,000, made to organizations specifically focused on implementing pieces of the RETOC.
  • The Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC), an advisory group to the Department of Early Learning, discusses how racial equity will be a part of its 2014 work plan. (The work plan will be approved next month.)

This list can go on, but that’s my take from a statewide vantage point. What would you add?
Awareness and outreach were the activities during the RETOC’s first year; implementation is at the heart of year two. Five grantees are already taking this up in a number of ways: making the potential impacts of early learning policy on immigrant families known during the past legislative session; increasing connections with family, friend and neighbor caregivers; and creating deeper local partnerships with organizations like the Urban League. The ELRCs’ increased focus on advancing racial equity will have an impact on local implementation of the Early Learning Plan, influencing regional WaKIDS work, home visitation coordination, parent engagement and advocacy. We will begin to learn as a statewide community how this vision impacts policy, practice, and ultimately outcomes for children of color.
We don’t have clear answers to these questions right now, but as new voices are brought to the table, we’ll have better information to make truly informed decisions that can enable us to build an early learning system that is successful in preparing all children to succeed.