What Is High-Quality Early Learning? Washington’s Early Education Head Provides Three Building Blocks



Dr. Bette Hyde, director of the Department of Early Learning

Policymakers are building early education systems around the country, and one of their main goals is to create high-quality child care and preschool systems.


But, what exactly is high-quality early preschool? This week, a story on National Public Radio explores this question.


As important as preschool is, defining high quality in child care during the first four years of life is also key. To help answer that question I asked the leader of Washington state’s early learning work, Department of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde, what she believes the three core elements of high-quality are in early learning:



“The first one, for sure, is the quality of the interaction between the child and caregiver. You want to have, I believe, an emotional connection, and you also want to have a really intentional educational connection. Every moment is a possibility to teach, shapes, colors … And be very conscious that every moment in that child’s life is an opportunity.”


Family Engagement

“You can be just a dynamo teacher, but you are playing with half a deck if you don’t genuinely engage the family. Whoever is that child’s caregiver really partners at a very specific level. ‘Your child is really strong at this. We need to work on this. I will do this (example of a supporting activity in the program). You can do this (an example of an activity a caregiver can develop at home.)’ ”


Comprehensive Services

“You can’t (educate a child if the family does not have access to) necessary comprehensive services, such as screening for vision issues. Do the parents need help learning English? Does the child need a dental exam? Children can’t learn if they are not healthy.”


In Washington, policymakers are working on all three areas. It’s also no surprise that quality in preschool and earlier learning have core elements in common. You can read more about DEL’s work to improve quality in child care on its website.