Wednesday, May 31, 2017

NIEER State of Preschool Yearbooks Shows Washington State Among Leading States in Resources, Quality

Each year the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) produces a national report, The State of Preschool Yearbookon state-funded preschool programs with detailed information on enrollment, funding, teacher qualifications, and other policies related to quality. Decades of research shows that early childhood education can prepare children for greater success in elementary school and beyond, with benefits largest for the most disadvantaged-- but only if quality is high. 

Some highlights specific to Washington State include:
  • Washington boosted funding by 26 percent for its Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and improved its relatively low enrollment of both 3- and 4-year-olds, according to the 2016 State of Preschool Yearbook released today by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).
  • Washington’s funding for ECEAP exceeded $97 million while enrollment totaled 11,691 children, about 6.5 percent of 3- and 4-year-olds in the state. 

“Early childhood education is a great investment,” said NIEER Director W. Steven Barnett, Ph.D. “We see Washington making progress on enrollment and spending but more work is needed to expand access to the high-quality pre-K that helps children get the best possible start in life.”

In Washington: 
  • Total funding for ECEAP was $97 million, up 26 percent or almost $20.3 million, adjusted for inflation from 2014-2015. 
  • Enrollment increased 16 percent, or 1,600 additional 3- and 4-year-olds compared to 2014-2015. 
  • Washington served almost 9 percent of 4-year-olds, ranking 32nd out of 44 states, the same as last year. The state also served more than 4 percent of 3-year-olds, ranking 17th out of the 29 states that serve 3-year-olds. 
  • Funding per child was $8,305, up $693 from 2014-2015. Washington ranked 4th on state resources per child, up from 8th last year. 
  • ECEAP meets nine of NIEER’s current quality standards benchmarks; the program does not require lead teachers to have bachelor’s degrees. 
  • Washington’s Department of Early Learning identified a new strategic goal to ensure 90 percent of the state's children are kindergarten-ready by 2020.

Current benchmarks were designed to help states build programs, focusing on resources and policies related to the structural aspects of public pre-K—elements needed for a high-quality program but not fully defining one. This year, NIEER is introduced major revisions to the policy benchmarks raise the bar by focusing on policies that more directly support continuous improvement of classroom quality. State profiles in the 2016 Yearbook include both current and new benchmark scores.

Washington met seven of NIEER’s new quality standards benchmarks, including the new requirement for supports for curriculum implementation. They also meet the new requirement for early learning and development standards that are culturally sensitive, supports, and aligned with other state standards and child assessments. However, current policies fell short on requiring 15 hours of ongoing professional development per year for assistant teachers and professional development plans for all lead and assistant teachers. Washington is engaged in work to bolster state-pre-K quality as they work to serve all eligible children.

Read the full report on the State of Preschool 2016 or the Executive Summary.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

DEL is Accepting Applications for Vacancies on the Early Learning Advisory Council

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is filling three seats on the Washington Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) and is accepting applications from qualified and interested individuals. The open seats will represent the following: 
  • A Family Home Child Care provider
  • A Parent representative  
  • An Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) representative
These governor-appointed seats are two-year positions and will be effective upon appointment. 


ELAC was created by the Legislature in 2007.  The Council plays a pivotal role in the early learning system as an advisory body to DEL and serves as a connector among the state, local communities and constituencies across Washington. 

ELAC’s membership reflects Washington’s regional, racial, and cultural diversity and 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 others interested in creating a statewide early learning system that helps all children realize their full potential. Read more about ELAC and its work.

ELAC representatives from around the state meet regularly to advise and work with DEL to assist in policy development and implementation that assist the department in promoting alignment of private and public sector actions, objectives, and resources, so that partners can collectively ensure that all children succeed in school and life. 


Members serve two-year terms that expire on June 30th of the second year. ELAC meets at least six times per year; generally from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. ELAC members are expected to attend the majority of meetings and be prepared to actively participate. Participants who volunteer in subcommittees or work groups should expect to meet outside of the regular meeting dates. 

The open membership seats are unpaid positions, although non-governmental members may be eligible for compensation and reimbursement for travel expenses incurred while carrying out ELAC duties.


Interested individuals who can commit to the membership requirements can apply for an open ELAC seat online on the Governor’s website by June 18, 2017. Along with your resume, please attach a brief statement that addresses the following: 
  • Which vacant seat are you applying for and how do you meet the criteria? 
  • 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 providing equitable early learning opportunities? 
  • What impact do you hope to see ELAC have on early learning in Washington, and how would you like to contribute to that effort?
Please contact 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!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Negotiated Rule Making Starts Today

We are starting a negotiated rule making and public comment process today for DEL’s updated, aligned, and weighted set of rules for Family Home and Center child care facilities. Check out the website for lots and lots of detail on the process.

This process is the required next step to completing our Standards Alignment process. The Early Start Act of 2016 mandated that DEL “align” its licensing rules for family homes and child care centers. This is essentially a re-write of the entire licensing WAC, and we’ve taken the opportunity as part of this do something long requested by our providers – “weighting” the rules so everyone shares the same sense of the importance of one rule over another in ensuring safety. The end result should be a progression of standards and regulations between licensed child care, Early Achievers, and ECEAP. The early learning system will have a unified set of regulations that are easy to understand by providers in the field.

Many agencies would choose at this point to negotiate separately the set of aligned rules with each group of “affected parties,” and then hold a protracted public comment process. Instead, DEL has chosen to gather public comments and negotiate the rules with people and organizations affected by them, all at the same time. 

I actually think this is a good idea – to get the interested parties all at one table together, trying to reach some sort of consensus. Adding parents and the public to the process will, I hope, vastly improve the quality of the outcome. The early learning field has made such great strides in the past few years in part because so many groups have often come together with one goal in mind: the health and well being of our state’s littlest learners. This process shouldn’t be any different.

People are obviously going to come at this from different perspectives and experiences. That’s a good thing. There may at times even be a little tension. That’s ok too. Push and pull is a healthy part of democracy. It ensures all groups and individuals are respected, considered, and protected. I’m confident about the great intentions of everyone who’s participating, whether it be in the formal negotiations, through alignment cafes, or by submitting comments as individuals. I’m also impressed by the work the DEL team has done thus far to get us all to this point. I look forward to the results.

Ross Hunter
Director, Washington State Department of Early Learning 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Celebrating Child Care Providers in Washington!

Today is Provider Appreciation Day, a time for us to all celebrate the efforts of providers who care for and educate our state’s children. Here’s a message to providers from DEL Director Ross Hunter:

A Washington child care provider
comforting a sick child.
“Earlier this week I was asked to record a video for the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction reminiscing about a teacher who had been powerful in my life, as part of National Teacher Appreciation Week. It was really easy, fun, and made me smile to think about the impact my high school calculus teacher had on my understanding about how the world of mathematics actually works. Despite my fondness for Mr. Machemer, in the real world, pre-school and childcare teachers are where the impact on children’s developing brains is most powerful.

The opportunity you have as teachers of our littlest, most sponge-like kids is incredible, and you really can change the world for the better.

Thank you for your commitment, your love for the children in your care, and for the positive impact you have on our littlest learners.”

Click here to learn more about Provider Appreciation Day. Share your stories of great child care providers with us on Facebook or on Twitter @DEL_wa! #ProviderAppreciationDay