Since 2011, the Washington Early Learning Partnership — made up of the Department of Early Learning, Thrive by Five Washington and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction — has crafted an annual set of priorities that the three groups work on together. These priorities reflect core aspects of the statewide Early Learning Plan.
Despite the Great Recession, each year the agencies made impressive progress on the lists. The groups built a quality rating and improvement system, Early Achievers; deepened parenting understanding of child development with the statewide “Love. Talk. Play.” campaign; developed a kindergarten readiness and assessment program; and leveraged public and private funding to increase the number of at-risk families that now receive home visiting services, to name a few of the achievements.
“We have had success because we are collaborating at a statewide level and listening to communities,” said Amy Blondin, head of government and community relations at the Department of Early Learning. “It is not just one group of people making decisions.”
In 2014, one of the themes is integration. Thrive by Five and the Department of Early Learning, for example, will work on building a continuum of infant and toddler services. And DEL will continue to expand Early Achievers to child care providers, as well as public and private preschools. (Check out all 16 priorities in the report.)
This year, the Partnership has also added a new partner, the Department of Health, which will take the lead on increasing breastfeeding and access to nutritious food.
One of the most intriguing priorities is an effort to improve alignment between pre-kindergarten and K-3 with a preschool summit.
The summit will “explore how school districts can enhance preschool opportunities in their communities in collaboration with providers or as a district.”
Over the past four years, Washington has constructed much of the infrastructure needed for a high-quality early learning system, but there is still a lot of work to do.
“A number (of priorities) have particular urgency because we must meet federal or state deadlines and deliverables, and we will need new or renewed revenue to sustain gains made in these priorities once the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant and the current Maternal, Infant, Early Childhood Home Visiting grant end.”
—“Early Learning Partnership 2013 Key Accomplishments and 2014 Priority Strategies Early Learning Plan.”