Thursday, January 15, 2015

Gov. Inslee: Early learning is the best investment we can make in our future.

"Our most fundamental commitment needs to be to the very youngest Washingtonians. We know the greatest untapped asset in the state is the potential of a 3- and 4-year-old. The latest neuroscience research at the University of Washington shows that at this age, children’s minds have a tremendous capacity for learning.  Early learning is the best investment we can make in our future.”
- Governor Jay Inslee, 2015 State of the State address, delivered January 13, 2015

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Washington submits ambitious application for federal preschool funding

Our state has submitted a bold plan to dramatically expand high-quality preschool options in high-need communities around the state, and enhance the quality of existing state preschool slots.

Washington is eligible for up to $70 million over four years through the U.S. departments of Education and Health & Human Services as part of their preschool development grants. Washington has applied for an expansion grant to reach and serve additional eligible preschool children in high-need communities.

Since 1985, Washington has been operating the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), the state-funded comprehensive preschool program for eligible 3- and 4-year-olds. ECEAP ranks high on many quality elements, but most ECEAP slots are currently only part-day, and limited funding makes ECEAP available for only some eligible children.

The federal grant funding would offer Washington the opportunity to implement all the components of high-quality preschool named in the grant (see DEL's grant application summary for more details), and more than double the number of eligible children receiving high-quality preschool by 2019.

Despite a short six-week application window, DEL engaged in extensive outreach to inform the application, including:

  • Webinars and a web page with information about the application process
  • Individual conversations with key legislative leaders
  • Meetings with early learning stakeholders and advocates
  • Conversation with the state Early Learning Advisory Council
  • An application review process that included readers from more than a dozen partner organizations include the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Child Care Aware of Washington, Thrive by Five Washington, the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP, and several current ECEAP contractors. 
It is expected that successful applicants will be notified in December 2014.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

DEL's updated strategic plan now online

DEL's updated strategic plan is now available online:

The strategic plan indicates our clear focus on offering high-quality early learning programs and services, prioritizing the most vulnerable children and families in our state. 

DEL vision: Children in Washington start kindergarten healthy, capable, and confident in their ability to learn and succeed.
DEL mission: DEL offers voluntary, comprehensive, high-quality early learning programs and support to families and early learning professionals.
Our four strategic goals:
  • Provide voluntary, high-quality early learning opportunities for children and families in Washington
  • Support all early learning professionals with research-based professional development and resources to ensure high-quality early learning opportunities
  • Build public awareness of and support for high-quality early learning opportunities
  • Promote system excellence by ensuring DEL is well-managed and supportive of its employees

The goals and activities in the plan are cross-walked with  Gov. Jay Inslee’s Results Washington initiative, as well as our state’s Early Learning Plan, so that we are working toward one purpose.

A lot has changed for early learning in Washington since we at DEL last updated our strategic plan in 2011! Here are just a few significant changes in our agency since then:

If you have questions or comments about the DEL strategic plan, please email

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

ECEAP Outcomes Report

The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is Washington’s pre-kindergarten program that prepares 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families for success in school and in life. The Depart­ment of Early Learning (DEL) oversees the program.

Since 1985, ECEAP has focused on the well-being of the whole child by providing comprehensive nutrition, health, education and family support services to Washington’s most at-risk children. ECEAP reaches the children most in need of these foundations for learning. The program is aligned with nationally researched programs that have shown exceptional returns on investment.

Each fall, DEL releases an ECEAP Outcomes Report to the public. It summarizes developmental, pre-academic, and health gains made by ECEAP children in the previous school year. The 2013-14 report is now available at:

 Highlights from the 2013-14 ECEAP Outcomes Report include:
·         We served the largest number of children ever – 8,741 slots.
o   With 12.2% turnover, there were 9,810 children enrolled at some time during the year.
o   29,128 ECEAP eligible children in Washington were not served by either ECEAP or Head Start. 
·         35% of ECEAP children speak a home language other than English.
o   There was an increase in children whose home language was neither English or Spanish, from 5% to 7% of enrollments. 
·         49% of ECEAP lead teachers have bachelor’s degrees or higher.  40% have associate degrees.
·         Risk factors
o   65% of children were from families at or below 80% of the poverty level.
§  FPL was $23,550 for a family of four.
o   32% of children had a parent who did not graduate high school
§  12% of children had a parent with 6th grade or less.

 ·         At enrollment 49% of children were up-to-date with well-child exams.  At exit, 94% were up-to-date.
·         At enrollment 72% of children were up-to-date with immunizations.  At exit, 99% were up-to-date.

·         At enrollment 27% of children were up-to-date with dental screening.  At exit, 95% were up-to-date.

·         Summary of Development and Learning Gains:

For 2013-14, DEL collected GOLD® assessment results for approximately 7,000 ECEAP children who had ratings in both fall and spring of the school year. The children made progress in all domains.
The following percentages of children moved from below age level to at or above age level during their time in ECEAP.
o   Social-emotional development – 48%
o   Physical development – 45%
o   Language development – 42%
o   Cognitive development – 48%
o   Literacy development - 50%
o   Mathematics - 59%


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Washington prepares application for federal preschool grant

Washington is eligible for up to $70 million in new federal preschool funding, which would allow our state to both serve more children and improve the quality of our preschool program.

The Preschool Development Grants opportunity was announced on Aug. 13. Applications are due by Oct. 14. Washington is currently drafting our application, and conducting outreach with key stakeholders to help inform it. 

A key focus of the application will be helping our state infuse some of the essential quality elements into state-funded pre-k:

  • Full school day programs (at least 5 hours)
  • Highly trained and supported teachers with professional qualifications and compensation
  • Evidence-based curriculum
  • Access to comprehensive services (health, nutrition, family support)
  • Rich learning environments and adult-child interactions
Find out more about the grant, and how you can be involved, at

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Early Achievers bring information, resources to participants

Hundreds of Early Achievers participants are getting extra support and resources through Early Achievers Institutes now being held around the state. In the past few months, Institutes have been offered in Seattle and Spokane.

Since 2013, the Childcare Quality and Early Learning Center for Research and Professional Development (CQEL) at the University of Washington has collaborated with DEL and Child Care Aware of Washington to produce these Institutes, which have offered sessions to more than a thousand participants, including:
  • STEM for Young Children
  • Supporting Dual Language Learners
  • Practical Strategies for decreasing Challenging Behaviors
  • Environment Rating Scale and Classroom Assessment Scoring System

Nearly 300 early learning professionals attended the first Central Washington Early Achievers Institute in March 2014 in Yakima, where every session was offered in both English and Spanish.

Materials from past Early Achievers Institutes are available online here.

Early learning professionals visit the "Make and Take" room at the Seattle Early Achievers Institute in July 2014, where they can put together resources to use in their programs.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014 Kids Count data: Washington ranks in the middle for overall child well-being by state

Washington’s  1.5 million children fare well when it comes to health, but overall, our  children’s well-being ranks close to the middle of the pack, according to the  2014 Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book issued this week.

The annual publication compares key indicators and ranks states. This 2014 edition concludes that there has been gradual, incremental improvement for children of all ages over the past 25 years in the areas of education and health. However, child poverty and a clear opportunity gap for children of color continue.

Washington ranks ninth among states when it comes to health, measured by children without health insurance, low-birth weight babies, child and teen deaths, and teens who abuse alcohol or drugs. Washington's Apple Health for Kids initiative aims to get more children signed up for health care insurance.

When it comes to education, Washington ranks 20th among states, as measured by children not attending preschool, fourth graders not proficient in reading, eighth graders not proficient in math and high school students not graduating on time. State-funded preschool for low-income children in Washington is slated to become a statutory entitlement in school year 2018-19, and the Legislature and Governor have made steady progress in increasing enrollment.

In the area of family and community (measured by children in single-parent households, children in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma, children living in high-poverty areas and teen births), Washington ranks 17th among states. DEL and partners continue to work on strengthening families and communities through our Strengthening Families Washington initiative, parent support in state-funded preschool, Early Achievers, and home visiting.

Finally, Washington ranks 27th for economic well-being, as measured by children in poverty, children whose parents lack secure employment, children living in households with a high housing cost burden, and teens not in school and not working.

"While we are proud of our state's progress in offering high-quality early learning opportunities to all children--especially children at risk of starting school not ready to succeed--there is more to do," said DEL Deputy Director Heather Moss. "With our state Early Learning Plan as our guide, we are working to ensure more families have access to state-funded comprehensive preschool and home visiting services, and that early learning professionals have support through Early Achievers to offer high-quality programs."

KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is a national and state-by-state effort to track the status of children in the United States. The foundation is based in Baltimore, Maryland.