Washington Leads

 In a few short years, Washington state has emerged as a national – and international – leader in early learning.

We lead in how we think, work together and invest public and private dollars. We are dogged in our commitment to high-quality programs and to closing the Opportunity Gap that disproportionately affects children of color. We are also extremely fortunate to have a state Legislature with a strong, bipartisan commitment to early learning.
Here are some highlights of our collective efforts from the past decade:

  • We created the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL), the nation’s first cabinet‐level early learning agency, and established Thrive Washington, the state primary private partner for early learning. These two groups work closely together to build an early learning system that supports all young children and families.
  • We created the Early Learning Action Alliance to coordinate and focus the state’s early learning advocacy efforts.
  • We formally connected early learning, K‐12, health and social services through the Washington Early Learning Partnership, which includes Thrive, DEL, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State Department of Health, and Washington State Department of Social & Health Services.
  • We wrote a state 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.
  • We released a Racial Equity Theory of Change, a plan to ensure we eliminate the Opportunity Gap as we implement the state Early Learning Plan.
  • We support and work with 10 Early Learning Regional Coalitions as a way to authentically engage communities in building the state’s early learning system.
  • 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.
  • We created the Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines to support children from birth to third grade. The guidelines are culturally relevant, reflect the latest research about child development, and connect to the K‐12 system.
  • We created the Home Visiting Services Account, matching public and private money to fund, support and evaluate high-quality home visiting programs for some of the state’s most vulnerable families with young children.
  • We are home to the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences , an interdisciplinary center at the University of Washington with two of the world’s leading experts in early learning and brain development as well as the world’s first MEG brain‐imaging facility focused on children.
  • 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.
  • We offer the annual Starting Strong Institute to help early learning professionals and K‐3 teachers connect and align their work to best support children’s learning.
  • We host Birth to Thrive Online, a nationally read blog that highlights the latest news, research, ideas and breakthroughs in early learning.
  • 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.
  • We created the First Peoples, First Steps Alliance to support the voice of the Native American Community in early learning.
  • We created the Early Learning Public Library Partnership to support the voice of libraries statewide in early learning.
  • We implemented the Washington Assessment Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) to ensure a successful start to the K-12 experience and connect the key adults in a child’s life. This three-part inventory engages families and early learning professionals and includes a whole-child assessment.
  • We designed and implemented Early Achievers , our state’s quality rating and improvement system for licensed child care. 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.
  • We were one of the first states to win a Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Grant to help us push this work forward.
  • We made the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), our state-funded preschool program, an entitlement for all eligible 3- and 4-year-olds beginning in 2018-19.