Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Becoming an Early Learning Professional Made Easy by Online Tool

The Department of Early Learning (DEL), the Center for Excellence for Careers in Education and the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) have partnered to release the Early Childhood Education Career Planning Portal.
Screen shot of Early Childhood Education Career Planning Portal.
“Professional development is a key component of enhancing early education in Washington state,” said DEL director Ross Hunter. “The launch of this portal is one way that we hope to make higher education and training accessible.”
The portal is currently live at http://ececareers.del.wa.gov/. It features early childhood career options with “day-in-the-life” descriptions and position qualifications. Users can easily 
  • browse college degrees and certificates,
  • connect directly with college advisors and
  • begin planning careers and education goals. 
Users are also able to navigate the site independently, with an advisor or an Early Achievers coach.

One of the most innovative features of the Early Childhood Education Career Planning Portal is the advanced search function. It allows for a map-view of all educational programs throughout the state—online programs are also listed and described.

Support services are available on the portal, including, scholarship information, links to early learning partners and the professional development division at DEL.

For more information about professional development or the new portal, please contact: MERIT@del.wa.gov.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Outstanding Child Care Center Experiences Emergency

On January 20, 2016, a fire started during child care hours at KidSpace, Inc., a licensed center located in Vancouver, WA. All the children and employees evacuated in a quick and organized manner as noted in an article in the Vancouver Columbian. To read the article click HERE.

Having a disaster plan and performing regular evacuation drills are one of the requirements of being licensed to operate a child care facility in Washington state; for centers, this requirement is spelled out in WAC 170-295-5030. But beyond just meeting the basic requirements—understanding the importance behind why something is required, helps to motivate us to go beyond the minimum standards and aim for excellence.

No one wants to think about a fire or other emergency situation happening at a child care facility—but it happened at KidSpace and it can happen anywhere. Fortunately, this facility had a well-thought-out evacuation plan and practiced drills with enough frequency that children and employees did not need to think, but just react. 

A DEL employee in the Vancouver licensing office has a school-age child that attends this child care facility. In talking about the fire at the child care facility, the child initially thought that the evacuation was simply a drill because the teachers remained calm. It was only after the child got outside and saw fire fighters, did the child realize it wasn’t a fire drill but an actual fire!
Vancouver Columbian report shows firefighters
on roof of Kidspace.
 A licensed child care facility located nearby saw flames at KidSpace and offered this space to help out. 

This helped KidSpace employees keep the children out of the elements and block the potentially traumatizing view of the fire burning their child care center. Parents, emergency personnel and employees from the nearby facility commented on how the KidSpace employees remained calm and collected which let the kids know that they were safe.

After an emergency situation, it is a good time for all providers to evaluate emergency plans and make changes if needed. Mark Kastenbaum, SW Regional Health Specialist, has provided the following resources for emergency planning:
In light of the fire at KidSpace facility and the quick and organized evacuation—we want to use this opportunity to commend and celebrate the KidSpace employees’. The Vancouver licensing staff have been working very closely with KidSpace employees to evaluate temporary space for KidSpace to use while their permanent facility gets repaired and rebuilt.

After the dust settles a bit, we want to use this experience as an opportunity to study this scenario like a case study and work with KidSpace to evaluate their emergency evacuation plans and see if they would tweak anything if this were to happen in the future. By sharing this experience with other providers—we can promote sharing of best practices among the early learning community.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

State Accepts Feedback on Federal Funding Plan: CCDF

More about CCDF

The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act of 2014 reauthorizes the child care program for the first time since 1996 and represents a historic re-envisioning of the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) program.

The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) supports low-income working families by providing access to affordable, high-quality early care and afterschool programs. CCDF also improves the quality of care to support children’s healthy development and learning by supporting child care licensing, quality improvements systems to help programs meet higher standards, and support for child care workers to attain more training and education.

Learn more about the law.

As the lead state agency for the CCDF block grant, the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) must submit a plan every three years for how the funding will be used to improve accessibility and quality of child care in our state.

Public Commentary Forum

For more information about the 2016 public commentary forum, click here: Public Commentary Forum Flyer. If you would like to participate in this event, please RSVP here: CCDF Public Forum.

To review the 2016 draft of the CCDF plan, click here: CCDF Plan Draft.

If you are interested in submitting commentary via teleconference, please contact communications@del.wa.gov as soon as possible. 

The deadline for public commentary is January 28 by 7:30 p.m.

Following the forum, public commentary will be posted online at www.del.wa.gov. The final plan will be submitted to federal review on March 1.

Monday, January 25, 2016

What Can We Do to "Raise America" Right?

Why do we, as a nation, make it so hard for our children to thrive?


How can we do better?


These questions are what the documentary "The Raising of America" pose to thousands each time it airs on KBTC public television.

Recent studies underscore repeatedly how a child’s earliest surroundings and interactions shape the developing brain, building the foundations for life-long emotional, intellectual and even physical health and development. Exposure to a nurturing or adverse environment in the early years affects how we think, feel and relate to others as we age, our capacities for empathy, impulse control and even love.

When parents are pressed for time, money and resources, their babies pay the price. Child well-being in the U.S. has fallen to 26th out of 29 rich nations. An increasing number of children grow up with learning, behavioral and physical health challenges. But our kids’ health is not all that’s at risk, researchers argue. By squeezing young families and under-investing in early childhood we are also under-developing America. If we want children to do better in school and in life—and the nation to prosper—we can’t wait until they enter kindergarten.

The studies are many, they are strong and they are persuasive. Yet little or no popular media until now have translated these scientific findings into a compelling new story capable of changing the way parents, practitioners, policy makers and the public think about society’s responsibilities and interest in these first crucial years. The conventional default explanations of child development—good vs. bad parents, genetics and cultural dysfunction—still predominate. Perhaps not coincidentally, little progress has been made in improving outcomes for America’s children.

Tune in

"The Raising of America" is set to air in our part of the country on KBTC (a PBS affiliate) on February 2, but the series has been available online in the past here: http://www.raisingofamerica.org/

If you are in the Thurston County area on January 27, from 5:30-7:30 p.m., DEL, KBTC Public Television, and Visions of Early Learning are hosting a screening event and special panel.

The event will take place at ESD 113 - 6005 Tyee Dr. SW. (Thurston Room). Tumwater, WA 98512. 

Panelists include:
  • Ross Hunter, Director of Washington State Department of Early Learning
  • John Wiesman, Secretary of Health- Washington State Department of Health
  • Jon Tunheim, Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney
  • Gretchen Thaller, MSN, RN., Coordinator Maternal Child Health/Supervisor Nurse Family Partnership- Thurston County Public Health and Social Services
Join us for this special screening followed by a panel discussion about how we can support early learning in our communities! Register for the free event here: Thurston Raising of America.

Content for this post is courtesy of raisingofamerica.org, DEL and KBTC public television.



Thursday, January 21, 2016

DEL Seeks New Member of Advisory Group

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is recruiting for a vacant seat on the Washington Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) and is accepting applications from qualified and interested individuals.  This Council position represents Head Start, Early Head Start, Migrant/Seasonal Head Start or Tribal Head Start Program. The position is effective upon appointment through June 30, 2017.

More about ELAC

The Early Learning Advisory Council or ELAC was formed in 2007 by the Washington State Legislature.  The Council plays a pivotal role in the early learning system as an advisory body to the Department of Early Learning (DEL) and serves as a conduit among the state, local communities and constituencies across Washington.  Council representatives from around the state meet regularly to provide input and recommendations to DEL so our strategies and actions are well informed and broadly supported by parents, child care providers, health and safety experts and interested members of the public.  Governor Jay Inslee holds final authority for policy decisions.

Council membership is purposefully diverse to represent Washington’s regional, racial, and cultural makeup.  The Council includes parents, child care providers, health/safety experts and legislators, as well as representatives of Tribal Nations, independent schools, the K-12 and higher education systems, and other individuals invested in improving our statewide early learning system.

Members serve two-year terms that expire on June 30th of the second year.  The Council meets at least six times each year.  Council members are expected to attend and be prepared to actively participate in the majority of meetings.  In addition, Council Members are expected to participants in subcommittees or work groups that meet outside of the full Council meeting dates.  Please see ELAC’s Charter and guiding documents for more on membership expectations.

We need you!

Interested individuals who can commit to the membership requirements can apply for the open ELAC seat online on the Governor’s website by February 15, 2016. Along with your resume, please add a brief statement that addresses the following:

·         Why would you like to serve as a representative on ELAC?
·         How did you hear about ELAC and/or who referred you?
·         What is your perspective on or approach to closing opportunity and gaps advancing racial equity in early learning?
·         What impact do you hope to see ELAC have on early learning in Washington, and how do you want to contribute to that effort?


Please contact slc@del.wa.gov with any questions.  Thank you for your interest in contributing to our state’s progress toward building an early learning system that meets the needs of all Washington children and families! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Equity Leaders Action Network (ELAN) Aims to Reduce Racial Disparities

Four Washingtonians have joined the Equity Leaders Action Network (ELAN) to advance racial equity in early childhood systems.

ELAN Group Photo.
ELAN is a focused effort across 20 states, the District of Columbia and Guam, composed of thirty-eight fellows who work at the state or county level in the areas of health, early learning and family support. Over the next three years, ELAN fellows will work together to identify, address and take action on inequities based on race, ethnicity, language and culture in our early childhood systems.

Washington’s ELAN fellows include Evette Jasper, Dr. Jill Sells, Heather Kawamoto and Bianca Bailey. Their participation will build on existing statewide commitments to advance racial equity.

“Racial equity is deeply embedded into the Department of Early Learning’s strategic goals,” said the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) Director, Ross Hunter. “We are collaboratively working toward a future where all children have equitable opportunities for quality education and ELAN means progress for this work.”
One of DEL’s partners, Thrive Washington has been a leader in bringing race to the forefront of statewide conversations and convened partners and community stakeholders to develop a Racial Equity Theory of Change, a vision and pathway for making sure Washington’s early learning system ultimately closes the opportunity gap. 

“We view early learning as a social justice issue in Washington state,” said Thrive President & CEO Sam Whiting. “Intentional, focused efforts like ELAN will help us learn from national leaders to ensure we implement the best strategies locally to eliminate the opportunity gap.”
“From birth, language-rich ‘back and forth’ interactions between parent and child are critical for optimal development,” said Dr. Jill Sells, a pediatrician and Executive Director of Reach Out and Read Washington State. “By 9 months of age, skill differences are measurable between children, so we must start with parents and babies.”
To address this, Reach Out and Read works with more than 1,500 medical providers in diverse settings across Washington, including tribal and military clinics, community health centers, and other clinics reaching large numbers of low-income families, children of color, and families with a home language other than English, including immigrant, migrant, and refugee populations. Doctors prescribe new books as they help parents learn how to support their child’s early language and literacy development.


“Reach Out and Read is designed to level the playing field and reduce inequities, and it is embraced across diverse cultures,” said Dr. Sells. “I’m excited to work with my ELAN colleagues to build an early learning system that will help all children be ready for kindergarten.”
“The question we’re grappling with currently is how to design a birth to three system that provides culturally and linguistically responsive supports and meets each child’s needs in the context of their family and community,” said Evette Jasper, State/Local Coordination Administrator within the Partnerships and Collaboration Division at DEL.  “We can now tap into a network of leaders who can help us identify potential paths forward.”
Puget Sound Educational Service District (PSESD) serves about 5,000 children prenatal to 5 years of age in Early Head Start, Head Start, and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program in King and Pierce Counties.  PSESD is striving to become an AntiRacist MultiCultural Organization with the goal of success for each child and elimination of the opportunity gap. 

“Through ELAN, I will have the opportunity to learn and collaborate with other ELAN fellows across the country to develop and implement a professional learning plan,” said Heather Kawamoto, PSESD Equity in Education Program Manager. “This plan aims to increase awareness and knowledge of how race, racism, privilege, and power impact outcomes for children. Our long-term goal is that children receive racially/culturally responsive services and instruction so that race is no longer a predictor of whether a child will or will not be ready to succeed in kindergarten.”
“It is not enough to have equality, we must have EQUITY! If we begin to meet others where they are and provide them with what they need to be successful, we all succeed,” said Bianca Bailey, Parent Ambassador Coordinator for the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP. “Everyone deserves the chance to be great, so I am starting at the beginning with children and families in the early learning system. ELAN is providing me with a network to make the impact that much wider and to change the status quo in this country.”   
The ELAN is a strategy of the BUILD Initiative, which for years has promoted early childhood systems work that identifies and addresses the root causes of disparities and supports state remedies to address them.  

BUILD’s vision is of a comprehensive, racially equitable, high-quality early childhood system that ensures all children have an opportunity to develop and reach their full potential, without experiencing discrimination or bias.  ELAN fellows will take action to reduce disparities with the choices and decisions they make and their influence on state and local policy and practices. BUILD will learn from each of these actions and share the learning throughout the early childhood field.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Progress Report on Early Start Act Released

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) has released its first annual progress report following the passage of the Early Start Act in July 2015.

The report is a comprehensive view of how the Early Start Act will enhance school readiness for Washington’s youngest learners. The act, which has garnered bi-partisan support in the state legislature and national recognition by former secretary of education, Arne Duncan, has developed key, achievable targets that will increase access to high quality early learning opportunities for all children.

The report was prepared by the Department of Early Learning in collaboration with Child Care Aware of Washington and the Early Achievers Review Subcommittee of the Early Learning Advisory Council.

Governor Inslee signs
the Early Start Act on July 6, 2015
“As a signatory of the bill that created the Early Start Act, I’m proud and excited to be able to sign on to this, the first formal report of DEL’s progress towards implementing the ESA,” said DEL Director Ross Hunter.
Director Hunter included ambitious goals to be implemented by the Department of Early Learning in the coming years. These goals are for:
  • Ninety percent of the children DEL serves are “Kindergarten ready” by 2020 and
  • To eliminate race as a predictor of “Kindergarten readiness” by 2020.

The report features data and demographic information about Washington children of various age and race in regard to their development and “Kindergarten readiness.”

You can also find information about the demographics of the state's littlest learners and information about "Kindergarten readiness," as seen in the graph below.

Part of DEL's initiative to improve quality revolves around participation in the state's quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) - Early Achievers. Within the report, you can find data on Early Achiever participation (chart below). 

To view the full report, please visit del.wa.gov/government/EarlyStartAct or search “Early Start Act” on DEL’s website.