Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines - a resource for parents, providers

The Washington Department of Early Learning (DEL) has published the Early Learning and Development Guidelines (guidelines) for children from birth through third grade. The guidelines replace the Early Learning and Development Benchmarks, which were first created in 2005 to outline what children know and are able to do at different stages of their development.

DEL, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Thrive by Five Washington led the recent revision of the guidelines in close partnership with a 51-member workgroup that included statewide representatives from Head Start, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), parents, Tribes, child care providers, special needs experts, K-12 staff and our state's ethnic commissions.

The guidelines are a resource for child care providers and families to help recognize what children ages birth through third grade should be doing and learning at different stages of their development. The guidelines have pages for each age group to use as a quick reference and are written in a clear, easy-to-understand way.

For example:
  • Page 16 has suggestions for the ways parents, child care providers and kingergarten through third grade teachers can use the guidelines.
  • Each section starts with "What families already know about their children: five questions to reflect on."
  • At the end of each section is a page called "Differences in development" that outlines areas of potential concerns for that age group.
Thrive by Five Washington, one of the partners for this project, blogged about the guidelines today: "The new Early Learning and Development Guidelines, though, are something more basic, and just as important. The resource is designed to be used by families and educators in every day parenting and care. Instead of describing an important but technical public policy, the guidelines explain to parents in clear terms the milestones in their children’s development, such as how their child may interact with other children, eat and communicate. Broken down by nine age groups, it also provides strategies to encourage healthy development at each stage."

Related links:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Family home child care rules are a boost for Washington families and child care professionals

More than 170,000 Washington children from newborn through age 12 spend time in licensed child care, about 45,000 of them in family home child care settings. Many of these children spend the majority of their waking hours in care. They deserve care that is not just safe and healthy, but also gets them ready to succeed in school.

On March 31, updated family home child care licensing rules will go into effect for our state’s 5,000 family home child care providers. The updated rules support healthy, safe, nurturing care by:

  • Requiring family home providers to have a high school diploma or GED, a child development associate credential or 45 credits of child development. Existing providers have until March 31, 2017, to attain this education.
  • Limiting screen time, including video games and movies, to two hours per day.
  • Increasing playground safety to reduce injuries caused by falling from climbing equipment and swings.
  • Reflecting new federal standards around crib safety.
  • Requiring a higher level of communication between providers and parents around child development and child care philosophy.
  • Enhancing background checks for those who work or live in the home.

A recent Washington Post article about a baby’s death in a Virginia family home child care illustrates why family home child care rules are so important. Earlier this month, Dateline NBC aired an investigation about background checks for child care providers across the nation. At least 11 states, including Washington, have comprehensive background screening systems—39 states do not. The investigation went on to illustrate case after case of people with criminal backgrounds caring for children and the devastating consequences that have happened in some cases.

These reports illustrate the contrast between Washington’s rules and what other states require – or not. Some states require no criminal background checks, training (including CPR) or even basic inspections. In 2012, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) ranked Washington ranked second in the nation for strong, thorough family home child care licensing policies. Sixteen states scored zero points out of 150 because they do not regulate family home child care or do not inspect before licensing providers. Washington’s rules are just the basis of what children and families deserve in child care.

Washington started regulation family home child care rules in the 1960s after a fire in a family home child care killed three children. Since the 1960s, we have made great strides to ensure children’s safety in family home child care and child care center settings. In recent years, parents and child development professionals have recognized the need for child care professionals, with whom young children who attend spend the majority of their waking hours, to help prepare children for success in school and life. Our state is one of many around the nation making a push toward increased quality in child care as a key school readiness strategy. The bulk of Washington’s recent $60 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant will support child care providers in boosting the quality of their programs through coaching, incentives and professional development. These updated rules help provide the foundation.

Family home child care providers are an integral part of the local economy, offering care for families while parents work, look for work or go to school. The revised family home child care rules are meant to support providers as small business owners. While there is—understandably—anxiety among some providers about meeting these updated rules, DEL is committed to helping them succeed. Families demand and deserve high-quality care, and we must help ensure communities can meet that demand.

The Department of Early Learning wants child care providers to succeed. Their success equals children’s success. And that is good for everyone.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

2012 regular legislative session wrap-up: How did early learning fare?

The 60-day 2012 legislative session will end today, and several important early learning bills are heading to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature. The Legislature does not appear likely to pass a supplemental operating budget before the session ends (no later than midnight tonight). Gov. Gregoire will determine when to call the Legislature back to finish that work, which could be as early as next week. View the latest versions of the House and Senate budget proposals online here.

Legislators continued to support and focus on early learning as a smart investment this session. The Department of Early Learning (DEL) and partners presented to legislators on a variety of topics, including:

• Our transition plan to move duties of the Council for Children & Families to DEL on July 1
• The updated family home child care licensing rules that go into effect on March 31
• Our state’s $60 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant
• Child care subsidies

Find the video and PowerPoint presentations from all DEL legislative work sessions online here.

Among the key early learning bills passed:

House Bill 2586, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park (Senate version sponsored by Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell): Moves our state forward with implementation of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WAKIDS. States legislative intent that WaKIDS replace other school district assessments, unless the district is seeking information not addressed through WaKIDS. Enhances parent and educator input on WaKIDS implementation. Allows districts to apply for waivers from WaKIDS until full statewide implementation of state-funded full-day kindergarten in school year 2017-2018.
Senate Bill 6226, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle: Extends the authorization period for Working Connections Child Care subsidies to 12 months for qualifying families.
Senate Bill 5715, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle: Requires DEL to adopt and implement core competencies for early care and education professionals and child and youth development professionals and review them every five years. These are a key foundation for our state’s professional development system.

Early learning bills that did not pass include:

House Bill 2658, sponsored by Rep. Kagi: Would have allowed child care employees who work in a school district or educational school district to undergo only a DEL background check and be exempt from the district background check.
House Bill 2569, sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines: Would have put more detail in statute about the purpose and goals of Washington’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system.
House Bill 2608, sponsored by Rep. Kagi (Senate version sponsored by Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett): Would have put the state Early Learning Guidelines into statute and require DEL, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Thrive by Five Washington to periodically review and update them.
House Bill 2448, sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland (Senate version sponsored by Sen. Harper): Would have created a voluntary state preschool program as an entitlement, per the recommendations of a legislatively mandated work group.
House Bill 2646, sponsored by Rep. Kagi: Would have exempted the personal information of children in for-profit licensed child care from public disclosure. Personal information for children in nonprofit child care is exempt from public disclosure.