Sharing Washington's Lessons Learned on a National Platform


By Alan Walker and Aimee White
North Central Early Learning Regional Coalition


In Washington state, we are using data in a way that sets an example for early learning professionals throughout the country.
We were invited to hold a workshop, “How an Early Learning Collaborative is Enhancing its Data Use,” at the Smart Start Conference in Greensboro, N.C., in May. Smart Start is a four-day gathering of more than 1,000 people from 35 states, all with a single objective: how to create the best opportunities for children to succeed. The attendees range from those working directly with young people to federal level policy analysts and advocacy organizations.
We shared the collaborative efforts taking place across the state of Washington, based on the Early Learning Plan. Specifically, we addressed what the North Central Early Learning Collaborative is accomplishing with its increased focus on data.

Our session was interactive; participants were able to follow our example and sketch out the stages of increasing data use. The participants were all engaged, and each was attempting to increase reliance on and use of data in his or her own early learning work. We are proud of our growing sophistication around data use and were happy to be able to share it on a national platform.
We didn’t spend the whole time presenting our workshop; we also had the tough job of deciding which other sessions to attend! Seventy-six workshops covered an array of topics, including schools, families, special interest, politics, research, personal well-being, community, planning and development. There was a marked focus on regional and multi-generational approaches to improving childhood outcomes.
Rich Neimand, president of Neimand Collaborative, led a very interesting discussion on The Heckman Equation and the results of the Carolina Abecedarian Project. After 30 years, the overall health of study participants is very positive — less obesity and lower cholesterol, for example — compared with those who have not received the same treatments and services.
Rich stressed the importance of educating the public and policymakers that quality early learning programs boost long-term health, especially when coupled with coordinated health care (regular check-ups). These interventions develop the whole child, and child health care is a critical building block for disease prevention.
The key theme from the session: “Create for economic gain, or remediate for economic pain.” The benefits from any increased investment in early learning will far outlay the cost.