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State unveils new early-learning plan

Published on: December 30, 2013

This just in  from the Washington State Department of Early Learning:


Washington unveils statewide Early Learning Plan

‘Roadmap’ will guide early learning decisions in our state for next decade

OLYMPIA—After more than a year of planning and input from hundreds of Washington residents, the Washington State Early Learning Plan has been issued. The plan is online at

The plan will guide early learning policy and funding decisions over the next decade, with the overall goal of building a statewide system that supports school readiness for children in Washington. It focuses on children ages birth through third grade.

The early learning plan is mandated in the legislation that created the state Department of Early Learning (DEL) in 2006. The law requires the state Early Learning Advisory Council to work in conjunction with DEL “to develop a statewide early learning plan that crosses systems and sectors to promote alignment of private and public sector actions, objectives, and resources, and to ensure school readiness.” (RCW 43.215.090).

Along with the Early Learning Advisory Council, DEL partnered with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Thrive by Five Washington (Thrive), the state’s public-private partnership for early learning, to lead creation of the plan.

“Starting today, my first question whenever we are making early learning policy or funding decisions is, ‘How does this support our statewide plan?’” said DEL Director Bette Hyde. “Particularly in these economic times, we must demand a coordinated system that maximizes every resource, public and private. This plan gives us a strategic, clear roadmap for ensuring children and families in Washington have access to early learning opportunities that prepare them for school and life, and—just as importantly—gives us the tools to measure how we’re doing,”

“Children who start kindergarten ready to learn are far more likely to succeed throughout their K-12 education and beyond,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. “This plan sets children in Washington on the right course during their earliest years.”

“Now comes the hard part: Implementing the plan. We are building a system that looks at all the things children and families need to succeed—namely, health and nutrition, early intervention, high-quality early care and education, and family supports,” said Thrive President and CEO Nina Auerbach.

The plan maps out: what our state should do; by when; what research or evidence shows it will work; and how we will measure success. Because of the large numbers of strategies in the plan—and limited resources and capacity—DEL, OSPI and Thrive have produced a “three-year action plan” that prioritizes implementation efforts for the three lead agencies. Other local and state entities have roles in the plan, too.

DEL, OSPI and Thrive plan to issue annual progress updates on how our state is implementing the plan.

The plan outlines strategies and expected outcomes in five main areas:

Ready and successful children

• All children have optimal physical health, mental health, oral health and nutrition.

• Pregnant and postpartum women receive health, nutrition and support services to optimize the pregnancy and the health of their newborns.

• All children have developmentally appropriate social-emotional, language, literacy, numeracy and cognitive skills, and demonstrate positive mental health and well being.

• Families have access to high-quality early learning programs and services that are culturally appropriate and affordable for those who choose them.

• All children enter kindergarten healthy and emotionally, socially and cognitively ready to succeed in school and in life.

Ready and successful parents, families and caregivers

• Parents are recognized as their children’s first and most important teachers, and have the support they need to help their children “learn to learn” in their first years of life.

• A comprehensive, culturally and language-appropriate information and referral system about all aspects of child health, development and early learning is accessible to all parents (including expectant parents), families and caregivers.

• Parents, families and caregivers have the knowledge and skills needed, along with culturally appropriate services and supports, to act and respond in ways that promote optimal child health, development and early learning.

• Parent, family and caregiver voices help shape policies and systems.

Ready and successful early learning professionals

• All early learning professionals can demonstrate the competencies to provide children birth through third grade with developmentally and culturally appropriate early learning experiences in healthy and safe environments.

• All families have access to high-quality, culturally competent, affordable child care and early education programs staffed by providers and teachers who are adequately trained and compensated.

• A fully-developed Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) is established and maintained so that early learning and school-age providers have the support and resources necessary to improve the quality of their programs and environments, and so that families have the information they need to make the best early learning choices for their children.

Ready and successful schools

• All children and families make smooth transitions among home, early learning settings and school.

• All schools are ready to welcome all children who attend, including preparing for their individual gifts and needs, level of knowledge, skills, social-emotional and physical development, and their cultural background and language.

• All students transition from third grade-level activities prepared with the foundations to achieve the more advanced challenges of upper elementary and intermediate grade-level activities.

Ready and successful systems and communities

• The early learning system in Washington uses evidence-based and/or demonstrated best practices (as available) to support families in fostering children’s healthy development and learning, and to build high-quality, culturally competent early learning programs for children birth through third grade.

• The early learning system in Washington works to close the preparation gap.

• The early learning system supports children with developmental disabilities and other special needs, and their families, to optimize each child’s health, development and educational outcomes.

• Governance and accountability systems ensure progress toward achieving the vision for a high-quality, accessible early learning system for all children in Washington.

• Communities support families and promote children’s learning and healthy development.

• The public understands the critical economic and social value of high-quality, culturally competent early learning for every child from birth through third grade, and actively supports related policies and investments.

The plan reflects extensive public input, including:

• Comments gathered at town hall meetings around the state

• Online surveys

• Meetings with Tribal Nations leaders

• Input from national and state experts on closing the academic achievement gap and early learning system building

• A review by a cultural competency expert.

Contact: Amy Blondin, Department of Early Learning, 360.725.4919;

Molly O’Connor, Thrive by Five Washington, 206.621.5562;

Nate Olson, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, 360.725.6015;


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