Friday, May 16, 2014

Early learning professionals, scientists share progress on Frontiers of Innovation pilots

Participants in Frontiers of Innovation—an effort to use science to inform early learning practices—came together in Seattle this week to share progress on testing four promising ways to support healthy child development. FOI pairs scientists with early learning professionals to co-design and test new strategies to build executive function and address mental health concerns in parents and children. The focus is on testing ideas on a quick cycle: Strategies that work could be taken to scale around the state; strategies that don’t work can be altered and tested again.

“It’s amazing what happens when you connect people who do this [early learning] work and are passionate about it with the scientists, and give them permission to co-create,” said Department of Early Learning Assistant Director for Quality Practice and Professional Growth Juliet Morrison.

The four intervention models currently being tested are:

Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND)
In this model developed at the Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC) at the University of Oregon, coaches videotape adults interacting with children and then show them clips where they are supporting children’s development.

“We look at the film to identify moments where good things are happening,” said Melanie Berry, an OSLC research associate. She added that the program reinforces and strengthens the naturally occurring supportive interactions between young children and adults, so-called “serve and return” interactions that help shape the brain.

Children’s Home Society of Washington (CHS) is one program testing out FIND with some of the families it serves with home visiting.

“Imagine you’re in a situation where you are under investigation for abuse or neglect, and then someone comes in and says, ‘OK, let’s look at what you’re doing right,’” said Jason Gortney, CHS community manager.

Licensed family home child care provider Lorrie Hope, another FIND pilot participant, was trained and has since coached three of the families in her care using FIND. Because she lives in southeast Washington, her training was all done online.

“I have a much stronger relationship with my parents,” she said. “We are more trusting with each other and we have a common language.”

Attachment Vitamins
University of California San Francisco research Annmarie Hulette developed the Attachment Vitamins curriculum to help improve caregiver knowledge of important child development issues including executive function and toxic stress. It’s currently being tested by Children’s Home Society and Centralia College.

“Attachment Vitamins is giving us the active ingredients we can take out of the child-parent psychotherapy model and plug into home visiting,” said Gortney. At Centralia College, they are piloting the curriculum in the Teens Entering Education Now (TEEN) program for 14 to 21-year-olds who are pregnant or parenting.

Executive Function Games
“Not every parent and child knows how to play together,” said University of California Berkeley Associate Professor Silvia Bunge, who is working with Childhaven and Centralia College to introduce games that caregivers and children can play together to build cognitive flexibility (the capacity to nimbly switch gears and apply different rules in different settings—for example, children using inside and outside voices in different situations.

At Childhaven, researchers are finding improvement in children’s cognitive flexibility after 10 weeks of playing the specially designed games in their classroom.

“It’s accessible, it’s sustainable—it’s not something that’s overly burdensome,” said Childhaven Vice President of Branch Program Operations Bethany Larsen.

Mindfulness Parenting Program (SEA CAP)
University of Washington Professor of Psychology Liliana Lengua has long studied how income impacts parenting and chld development. She developed the Social and Emotional and Academic Success of Children and Parents (SEA CAP), which helps adults cultivate mindfulness and emotional regulation. This promotes warm interactions between adult and child, and helps the adult learn to “scaffold” learning by guiding children in tasks but stepping out to let the child practice autonomy.

Educational Service District 112 in Vancouver is embedding the mindfulness training in its existing weekly parent-child play group.

“When you practice these skills over time, it becomes easier to access, so when you find yourself in a moment of stress, it’s there for you to use,” said Corina McEntire, ESD 112 professional development manager.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Preschool yearbook: Washington State making progress in quality, access

Washington held steady in 2013 in access to state-funded preschool, and is making progress in ensuring the program is high-quality, according to a new report by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

NIEER, an independent research organization, issues an annual "yearbook" assessing state-funded preschool around the nation. 

DEL oversees Washington's preschool program (the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP). In the current school year, ECEAP is serving 8,700 low-income 3- and 4-year-olds with high-quality preschool, family support services, and health and nutrition services. The goal is to help children and families get ready for success in kindergarten and beyond.

The state preschool program is undergoing significant changes in the coming years: 

  • The state Legislature invested in 1,350 additional enrollment slots for school year 2014-15 and increased the per-slot funding to $7,579. Of this, about 97 percent goes directly to communities to benefit children and families, at an average of $7,331 per slot. (ECEAP is slated to become a statutory entitlement in school year 2018-19, at which time any child who meets eligibility standards will be entitled to a spot in the program.)
  • DEL is using the 1,350 expansion slots to support innovation, such as offering full-day classroom programming, using evidence-based curriculum, and offering family support services tailored to each family's individual strengths and needs. 
  • All ECEAP contractors must join Early Achievers, Washington's quality rating and improvement system, by 2015. This will help ensure we are measuring early care and education programs--child care and state-funded preschool--using a common definition of quality.

Applications for Washington's preschool expansion are due on May 19. DEL received letters of intent from more than 40 organizations interested in offering expansion slots. Read more about DEL's preschool expansion.

Monday, May 12, 2014

DEL Early Support for Infants and Toddlers program announces 2014 Parent Leadership Award winners

Parent leaders can be found all around the state--and at the annual Infant and Early Childhood Conference last week, DEL's Early Support for Infants and Toddlers program honored two woman who have helped their own families and others meet the needs of their children with special needs.
Tracie Winkelman and Jessie Atkins,
2014 ESIT Parent Leadership Award winners

Tracie Winkelman
Parent Leadership Award winner - Eastern Washington
Eight years ago, Tracie and her husband Kevin had their second daughter Mia. Mia was born with Down syndrome. Tracie became aware of the lack of identifiable resources that were available for her family and other families that also had a child with Down syndrome. She and other families diligently worked to secure approval from the Down Syndrome Association for a local charter.  

Tracie now serves on the Down Syndrome Association of the Mid-Columbia board and has been instrumental in its growth and success. Tracie has used her skills as a teacher to help meet the educational needs of other families that have children with special needs in her position as a teacher at the Children’s Developmental Center in Richland. 

Tracie is always willing to share her own experiences as a parent with other families that are facing similar challenges.

Jessie Atkins 
Parent Leadership Award winner – Western Washington
Jessie and her family had tremendous persistence and love that motivated them through the challenges they faced when their son, Stage, was born six years ago. Stage was born with multiple medical challenges. As a parent of a child with special needs, Jessie and her husband Jeff received birth to three services in Snohomish County.  

As a result of having a child with special needs, Jessie became a parent leader in her community. Jessie worked as a parent-to-parent coordinator and volunteer for the Arc of Snohomish County. She served as the co-chair for the Snohomish County Family Interagency Coordinating Council, bringing parent perspective and advocacy to the council. She is also a member and past president of the Marysville School District’s Special Education PTSA. Jessie has used her advocacy skills to speak to the Legislature about services for children with special needs. 

The word “never” is not in Jessie’s vocabulary. She will find a way to get positive results for her family and any family that she helps.

Congratulations, Tracie and Jessie, and thank you for your contributions to your communities!

Friday, May 9, 2014

State, union reach agreement on additional Early Achievers support for family home providers

The State of Washington has reached an agreement with the Service Employees International Union 925 (SEIU 925) to provide additional resources to licensed family home child care providers who are SEIU 925 members and are participating in Early Achievers.
The resources are available for the rest of the current contract (through June 30, 2015), and are meant to support family home providers in improving quality through Early Achievers. The resources include:

  • A $750 Quality Improvement Award for family home child care providers who are rated level 2 in Early Achievers.
  • Up to $500 for a needs-based grant to help certain providers achieve a level 3 rating or higher in Early Achievers. Need is defined as providers in tier 1 of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) or who live in school districts with 20 percent or more children living in poverty.
  • Free re-rating if rated at a level 2—so long as the re-rating is requested before June 30, 2015, and approved by the provider’s Child Care Aware of Washington Regional Coordinator.
  • Higher subsidy reimbursement (tiered above base subsidy rate) for providers who rate a level 3 through 5 in Early Achievers, to help ensure providers have adequate resources to offer high-quality care, and to encourage providers to offer high-quality care to low-income children. Up to $2 million total is provided in the state budget for this purpose. This is a pilot to determine whether these are the right reimbursement levels to support quality:
    • Level 3: 4 percent above base rate
    • Level 4: 10 percent above base rate
    • Level  5: 15 percent above base rate
Providers should contact SEIU 925 for specific questions about this agreement. DEL is working with Child Care Aware of Washington and other partners on how we will implement this agreement, and will share more details as they become available. 

Tiered subsidy reimbursement rates also will be available for child care centers participating in Early Achievers.