Tuesday, June 28, 2016

DEL Welcomes Kids to Work

The Department of Early Learning has celebrated the Governor-proclaimed Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day in a big way the past couple years. The agency has welcomed children of all ages, in service of DEL's mission and goals to promote high-quality early learning and to  build awareness and support for early learning opportunities!

This year, the event was held in two DEL locations: Olympia and Spokane, with the common goal to educate our staff's children about the important work done in Washington State early learning (and to have a little fun in the process). Over 60 kids came to DEL Olympia and Spokane!

Highlighted activities include:

  • Capital tour (Olympia)
  • Art huddles - in which children created art to decorate their parent's building with the DEL "handprint" theme.
  • STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons with the help of BLOCK fest (Olympia) and the Spokane County Library (Spokane). 
  • Active play with an obstacle course courtesy of Healthiest Next Generation coordinator, Adrienne Dorf (Olympia) and post-lunch outdoor games (Spokane), and
  • Healthy, make-your-own snacks at both locations.
Check out the short video commemorating the day, go to our YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/LiDuSGAVOnk

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Professional Development: A Cornerstone of High-Quality Programs & Outcomes for Children

Levels of education among early learning professionals in Washington, and around the country, vary significantly. Research is clear that children who attend high-quality early learning programs are more likely to be ready for Kindergarten and perform successfully in school and beyond. We know that the quality of any early childhood education program depends significantly on the qualifications of its teachers. 

Several studies on teacher preparation indicate the importance of a highly-skilled and trained workforce when it comes to positive child outcomes:

· “The professional development of practitioners is universally recognized in Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) as a key ingredient to improving the quality of early care and education. Research also shows that qualified and well-compensated care providers and teachers are the cornerstone of high-quality early childhood programs.”[1]

· “Well-educated teachers with specialized training in early childhood education have the knowledge and skills to positively impact child outcomes. Research shows that the most effective preschool teachers have a four-year degree with specialized training in teaching young children.”[2]

· “Preparation programs, training, mentoring and coaching, and in-service professional development are all critical direct mechanisms for developing and sustaining the knowledge and competencies of professionals.”[3]
DEL staff and state partners at the National Academy of Medicine state convening in early May. Washington State Department of Early Learning, Thrive Washington, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Child Care Aware, Head Start Collaboration Office, Early Childhood Teacher Preparation Council and Higher Education Partners.
State and national momentum is increasing to support policy change to address low wages, accessibility of professional development and highlighting the connection between teacher preparation and child outcomes. The Department of Early Learning is working alongside state and national partners in state planning efforts and national learning tables. A recent workforce survey went out to early learning programs all around the state to learn more about experiences related to educator hiring and retention.  Stay tuned for the results of that survey and more information about our state’s work to support the early learning workforce.

[1] Building an Early Childhood Professional Development System (2010) NGA Center For Best Practice Issue Brief Full Report

[2] J. Coffman and M.E. Lopez, “Raising Preschool Teacher Qualifications,” Montclair and New York: The Schumann Fund for New Jersey and The Trust for Early Education, 2003).Full Report

[3] Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council (NRC). 2015. Transforming the workforce for children birth through age 8: A unifying foundation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Full report

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Early Achievers Offers Quality Improvement Awards

Beginning July 1, 2016, the Early Achievers Quality Improvement Awards policy will change to reflect requirements outlined in the Early Start Act of 2015.Under the new guidelines, these awards will offer recognition and support to qualifying facilities that serve families receiving state child care subsidy.

To be eligible for these awards, participants must:
  • Serve an enrollment population of which at least 5% of total licensed capacity consists of non-school-age children receiving state subsidy.* 
  • Be an active Early Achievers participant with a rating of Level 3 or higher (family home providers may qualify at a Level 2). 
  • Register as a vendor of Washington State by submitting the Statewide Payee Registration form and W-9 to the Department of Early Learning. Registration should be completed in the facility name, as funds will not be awarded to individuals. All facilities must submit their payee registration and W-9 prior to receiving a monetary award. 

Quality Improvement Awards will be distributed approximately 90 days after the facility’s rating release date. 

Those who qualify will be eligible for the new Quality Improvement Award amounts, as follows:

Family Home Child Care QI Awards:

  • Level 2 - $1000 
  • Level 3 - $2250 
  • Level 4 - $2500 
  • Level 5 - $2750 
Child Care Center QI Awards:
  • Level 3 - $5000 
  • Level 4 - $7500 
  • Level 5 - $9000 
More information about the awards and how to qualify can be found in Early Achievers Quality Improvement Awards--Frequently Asked Questions document on the DEL website.

*The Department of Early Learning (DEL) calculates the percentage of children receiving subsidies by adding the number of non-school-age children on subsidy served each month for the 12 months preceding the rating release date. The total will be divided by the number of months children were present in the facility to determine the average number of children on subsidy served per month. This average will then be divided by the total licensed capacity of the provider to receive the final percentage of children on subsidy served. Invoices should be submitted promptly to ensure an accurate calculation. See more information here: Early Achievers Quality Improvement Awards--Frequently Asked Questions.

For questions regarding Early Achievers, contact qris@del.wa.gov.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Early Learning Center Bounces Back after Disaster

This past winter, at a well-known child care center in Vancouver, a disaster happened. A larger portion of KIDSPACE child enrichment center’s roof caught fire and quickly spread to a large part of KIDSPACE’s gymnasium and classroom area. Check out the original report from The Columbian here: Fire empties day care center near Vancouver Mall

“The smoke just started billowing and getting bigger,” said KIDSPACE Director, Kathy Stanley. “The kids evacuated with no shoes, because that is what they learned—take nothing with.” 

KIDSPACE staff and children followed their emergency preparedness plan, and were in compliance with the State’s licensed child care emergency preparedness requirements.
Kathy Stanley, KIDSPACE Director thanks community and friends for support in unfinished gymnasium. Stanley is standing in front of a scrap-book board/collage of important lessons learned and milestones achieved following the fire.
Due in part to the responsiveness of the Vancouver fire department, the willingness of nearby businesses to shelter children and fast-acting KIDSPACE staff, not one person was hurt.

“When I got the call that this fire had happened, I wasn’t expecting that the biggest problem would be that a bunch of 3- and 4-year-olds were excited about seeing fire engines,” said DEL Director, Ross Hunter. Hunter and DEL administration were notified of the fire, and the successful evacuation the same day it took place.

DEL Director, Ross Hunter and KIDSPACE Director, Kathy Stanley
To celebrate KIDSPACE’s resilience and “grace under fire,” the Department of Early Learning spent time at the center this past week. Hunter and area licensing staff toured the facility, and learned from the children about fire safety, demolition, architecture and the science behind fire.

Following the emergency, KIDSPACE staff brainstormed how to create an entire unit and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) activities to accompany their lessons. A friend to the Center also created a large-scale scrap-book wall to showcase the activities and the timeline of the center’s recovery following the emergency. 

“The damage done to this place, it looks like a disaster,” said Hunter. Currently, KIDSPACE’s gym is under construction to repair the damage done by the fire. “The real disaster would be if any one of those children were hurt. But they weren’t. And that’s because this center had their stuff together. Thank you for running a high-quality early learning program and for letting us learn about what you do here.”

DEL Director, Ross Hunter learns about circuitry from KIDSPACE kids.
KIDSPACE is still undergoing renovation, but was able to open at full-capacity about a month following the fire.

Want to know more about some of the cool things happening at KIDSPACE? Follow them on Facebook here: KIDSPACE Child Enrichment Center.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Uplifting ECEAP: Debi's Story and the Future of State-funded PreK

ECEAP is Washington’s state-funded prekindergarten program that prepares some of the state’s most vulnerable 3- and 4-year-old children for success in school and in life. DEL oversees the program which, since 1985, 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. 

Debi, an ECEAP mom
To get an idea of the impact ECEAP has on families, experience Debi's story. 

During a time in Debi's life when money and stability were scarce, she found a state-funded program that helped her children thrive. 

Her son's experience in quality pre-K have started them on a positive trajectory that will hopefully lead to bright futures--and her boys have big plans!

See the full story here: Uplifting ECEAP. *Please note there is a transcript in the comments section of the YouTube video.

The future of ECEAP:

DEL recently released a new ECEAP caseload forecast that highlights the number of children who are eligible to participate in, and the number of children actually served by, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).

This report is provided by the Department of Early Learning to describe the February 2016 ECEAP caseload forecast. 

By the 2020-21 school year, all eligible children shall be entitled to enroll in ECEAP, per Washington Legislature.

Added slots:
  • 3,300 slots were added to ECEAP in the 2013-15 and 2015-17 bienniums. 
  • For the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years, ECEAP has 11,691 enrollment slots. 
Eligible kids:
  • In 2015-16, there are 11,955 children eligible for ECEAP who are not served by ECEAP or Head Start. 
  • Based on the February 2016 CFC forecast, 6,260 of these would likely participate if space were available. 
  • DEL serves 66 percent of eligible children and 79 percent of children likely to participate. 
  • By the 2020-21 school year, an additional 7,377 would participate if space is available.

Check out the full report here: ECEAP Caseload Forecast.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Exciting Changes for WA Early Learning Providers

Beginning July 1, Washington’s early learning providers will receive higher pay and benefit from greater stability in the subsidized care system. As we build a statewide system of high-quality early learning, we know that providers are at the core of this work. We’re working hard to provide them with better supports and resources for their early learning small businesses.

Base Rate Increases:
For early learning providers who are being asked to provide high-quality, outcome-driven instruction, higher pay will give them the needed investment to continue their critical work.
  • All providers authorized to accept subsidy payments will see increases to their base rates
  • For licensed centers and Family, Friends, and Neighbors the rate will increase a flat 2%.
  • Base rates for Licensed Family Homes will increase by an average of 8%, based on geographic region and child age group. 
  • Providers with authorization rates less than the state maximum will not be affected by this change.
  • These increases will be effective for care provided in July of this year. 
  • See the subsidy base rates divided by region here: Subsidy Map.
12 Month Eligibility:
This will give providers a better sense of the number of children they’ll be serving over a longer, and more consistent period of time, and means a more predictable source of income.
  • Families who qualify for WCCC or SCC will automatically receive 12-months of eligibility.
  • Families will not be terminated during the 12-month eligibility period for loss of approved activities or for increases in income that don’t exceed federal limits.
  • Families will only be terminated during the 12 month certification period under limited circumstances including the following:
    • Family income exceeds federal limit of 85% State Median Income (around 300% FPL)
    • Parent requests termination of benefits
    • Consumer does not pay copay and provider expects payment
    • Total number of eligible children in the household reaches zero
  • Families will be required to report only changes in provider and changes in circumstances described above.
We are all working together to get every child ready for Kindergarten. The Department of Early Learning is excited to be able to offer to providers these increased supports so that we can continue building on our shared success.