Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Meet the Early Achievers Data Collection Team at Cultivate Learning

The Early Achievers data collection team at Cultivate Learning is a group of skilled early learning professionals who have a passion for collecting culturally responsive, reliable, and valid data on the quality of early learning environments. The data is provided to early educators and their coaches so they can collaborate and plan for continuous quality improvement.  

This team is made up of two smaller groups: Community Liaisons and Data Collectors. Both data collectors and community liaisons live, work, and play in the communities they serve. These early learning professionals have, at a minimum, bachelor’s degrees in early learning or a related field and have experience working with young children in early learning environments such as family child cares, large centers, small and non-profit programs, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP); Head Start, Montessori, Reggio, and Waldorf programs.

In addition, Cultivate Learning honors the government-to-government relationship between Washington State’s 29 sovereign nations and the federal and state government through Tribal liaisons and data collectors who have experience working with Tribal communities or are members themselves. The Tribal liaison’s goal is to support Tribes participating, or considering participation, in Early Achievers.

Washington is a diverse state, especially when you look at its youngest residents. Many early learning programs across the state have a language of instruction other than English. Research at the University of Washington’s College of Education emphasizes the importance of encouraging early educators to support a child’s home language. Cultivate Learning offers data collection in many languages. For languages not represented on the team, Cultivate Learning uses an interpreter and headset system for real-time interpretation. Languages currently represented on the team include Cantonese, English, Korean, Mandarin, Somali, Oromo, Tigrinya/Amharic, Uzbek, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Russian.

Meet Jessica, an Early Achievers Data Collector at Cultivate Learning

Cultivate Learning recently caught up with Jessica, a busy Early Achievers data collector in King County, for some perspective on her job.

Hi Jessica, can we ask you a few questions about your work as a data collector? 

Sure, I would be happy to discuss my work!

What inspires you about being on the data collection team?

The data collection team is not only responsible for collecting data for Early Achievers. Our job entails so much more than that. I love how we teach at institutes, participate in Meaningful Makeovers, and are involved in many other projects. Our team comes from diverse cultures, we speak different languages, have different backgrounds and we are all able to come together and work passionately to help children and families. It's a pretty awesome team! 

Do you miss working with children? 

Yes absolutely! It's hard sometimes during the observation watching kiddos from a distance—I just want to spend time and play. However, I know that our work is important and impactful for their future! 

What do you like best about working on the data collection team? 

Being on the data collection team for five years now, I've had the privilege to see all the hard work teachers put into their programs. I'm excited to see more of that!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Letter from the Director: DEL's Budget Request

It’s that time of year again, when DEL submits its budget requests to the Governor’s office for consideration in the next legislative session. This year, however, will be a little unique. Because we’re in a transition phase from being the Department of Early Learning into being part of the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families, our budgeting process is happening in two stages this time around.

Linked here you’ll find the small ask that DEL submitted for two limited technical adjustments:
  • Provide full funding for tiered quality reimbursements to child care providers by adjusting the department’s budget to match forecasted reimbursement levels;
  • Streamline child care services for families experiencing homelessness and ensure compliance with federal law by transferring the budget for the Homeless Child Care Program from DEL to the Department of Social and Health Services (Economic Services Administration).

As I noted in my letter attached to the budget request, these packages constitute a $3.6 million dollar investment that will keep kids healthy and safe by reimbursing child care providers for high-quality child care environments and keep the state in compliance with federal law.

If you’re thinking “that can’t be everything,” I want to remind everyone that this is a supplemental budget year, meaning that the legislature is charged essentially with only taking up budget changes to fix problems. We are limited and focused in what we can request in supplemental years, and you’ll see that reflected in this year’s package. Additionally, the bulk of what would be considered a DEL ask will come out as the budget request of the new DCYF. Look for a post on that complete budget package on the DCYF website later this week.

Thank you to all of our stakeholders and partners who have provided meaningful feedback and advice during our budget development process.

Heather Moss
Department of Early Learning

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Digital Attendance Project Marks Key Progress

As we previously reported in our blog, the Department of Early Learning is purchasing a digital attendance system to simplify and improve how we track children’s participation in subsidized child care. We’ll be replacing manual paper attendance systems with modern, off-the-shelf, cloud-based software. We’re pleased to announce that DEL has signed a contract with a company called Controltec to provide us with our system!

We’re excited to move into the next phase of this project – configuring the purchased system to suit DEL’s needs. Over the next few months we’ll also work with Controltec to train DEL staff on the system so they can provide top-notch support to providers.

The big question on the minds of many providers is “when will this affect me?” Providers who accept state subsidies for child care will be required to use some form of digital attendance system after the full rollout is complete. DEL understands that a new process and technology can’t be simply handed out without support. In phases, DEL will train providers on the new system, ensuring that trainings are delivered in a variety of ways and languages.

Beginning in January, 2018 we will start with an “early adopters” phase of the system roll-out. This will give us the opportunity to test out our training and deployment methods with a small cross-section of providers before the full roll-out. Then, with lessons learned from that effort, we’ll conduct training and make the system available to all providers from late February through March.

We’re still working on the process for recruiting the early adopters, but we know that we’ll be looking for volunteers from family homes, child care centers, and Family, Friends, and Neighbors providers from a variety of communities across the state. Luckily we have a lot more flexibility with this phase than we did with our usability testing, so we’ll be able to engage providers better. We’ll be sure to reach out to you when we have more details about participating in the early adopters group. Keep an eye on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. Our partners at SEIU 925 and Child Care Aware will also help us get the word out.

Want to learn more about the digital attendance project? Visit our webpage to get answers to frequently asked questions at https://del.wa.gov/Attendance-Project

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Washington Enlists Video Coaching to Support Nurturing and Development

Washington State has been utilizing a new and unique way to support healthy brain development of young children and positive relationships between children and their caregivers. It’s a video coaching program that uses the concept of serve and return interactions, called Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND). Dr. Phil Fisher and his colleagues at the University of Oregon developed the FIND model to support interactions between one caregiver and one child.  The FIND development team at the University of Oregon, the Washington State Department of Early Learning and Children’s Home Society of Washington, have co-created a model of FIND for use in early childhood settings.

FIND was developed as part of the Frontiers of Innovation at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, and is an example of putting researchers and practitioners together to advance science-based innovations that can be expanded to serve more young children and families.

What is FIND?
Coaches trained in FIND film interactions between the child and their caregiver for 10 minutes as they engage in everyday activities such as playing a game or having a snack. Films are edited into short clips by a team at CHSW. After editing, a FIND coach shows the caregiver the video of positive interactions with a child. Coaches emphasize the caregivers’ strengths and understanding of how engaging positively with the child promotes positive brain development.

Expanding FIND around the state
In 2013, FIND was implemented in a licensed family child care home in Richland, Washington called “Hope for the Future Childcare.” This small-scale road test demonstrated the feasibility and utility of implementing FIND in the context of child care.

Targeted FIND coaching for infant-toddler caregivers was conducted in a larger pilot in 2015 with 16 child care providers in one region of the state.  The goal of the pilot was to demonstrate that FIND could be used in formal child care and early learning settings. Positive outcomes from the pilot resulted in DEL implementing FIND across the state as part of Washington State’s child care quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), Early Achievers.  Adding FIND to Early Achievers will help to improve the quality of child care for infants and toddlers.

In order to increase the amount of FIND coaching, in January 2016, four randomly selected regions of the state began FIND with infant-toddler classrooms. The remaining six regions began implementation in July 2016. During the first year of FIND coaching, 189 caregivers completed the FIND program.  The impact can be heard in this quote from a teacher “I realized that my work with infants and toddlers has a big impact on their development and their future. I want every infant-toddler teacher to take this coaching.”

The project also involves training and certification of regional infant toddler consultants as FIND coaches who support child care providers through the state. Twenty-one FIND coaches were trained in coordination with the FIND development team at University of Oregon and Children’s Home Society of Washington.

Data collection during the first year of FIND was completed and is currently being analyzed by the FIND Development Team at the University of Oregon and researchers at the University of Washington. 

To read a set of case studies from this evaluation, click here: To read a full summary of all of the FIND initiatives, click here.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Research & Analysis to Support the 90% Goal

DEL’s goal: By the year 2020, 90% of five-year-olds will be ready for kindergarten, with race and family income no longer predictors of readiness.
In Spring 2016 the Department of Early Learning (DEL) established its first ever agency-wide Research & Analysis team, and we’re excited about the opportunity to support the agency’s 90 percent goal. Our team is made up of 2 researchers and 2 analysts whose job it is to make meaning out of data and help inform agency policy decisions. We’re supported by our agency Data Governance Coordinator and the Data Team in DEL’s IT Department who all help make sure we can get access to the data we need.

DEL has always had terrific analysts and data staff embedded in DEL program units to support our different programs – like ECEAP, Early Achievers, subsidy, home visiting, ESIT, and ECLIPSE. DEL’s new Research & Analysis team is building on that past success to explore agency-wide questions that will improve program quality and effectiveness, and help more children prepare for kindergarten.

In our first year we’ve starting producing answers to questions like:
  • How do children who’ve participated in ECEAP perform on WaKIDS kindergarten entry assessments? Why do many children in ECEAP exhibit greater levels of readiness in Spring of their ECEAP year than when they enter kindergarten in the Fall? 
  • What kind of impact are program enhancements like Family Support models in ECEAP and layered subsidy having on child and family experiences in DEL’s programs?  To what extent are DEL’s programs reaching children in need from different racial, ethnic, and language groups across the state? 
  • How is implementation of Washington’s Early Achiever’s Quality Rating and Improvement System impacting providers and children throughout the state? Are the Early Achiever’s policy changes having greater impact on some subgroups of providers and children than others? 

Getting to 90% Ready: Strategies
This graphic is one of the ways the research team tells the story of how DEL is doing at meeting our 90% goal, and how some of our tactics can get us closer to that goal.

In the coming year we’ll be exploring many more questions, including: 
  • To what extent do young children participate in multiple DEL programs? To what extent does participating in multiple early childhood programs help in preparing children for kindergarten? 
  • How does ECEAP dosage effect children’s readiness for kindergarten? To what extent is 2 years better than 1 year, or full-day better than part-day? Where are the greatest dosage gains made, and for which students?  
  • What are the assessment and instructional practices most effective for dual-language learners in ECEAP? What is the gap between what practices are most effective for students and what ECEAP provides? What are the professional development needs of early childhood educators working with dual-language learner students?

The statewide Early Learning Advisory Committee has established a Research Advisory Sub-committee to help advise DEL’s Research & Analysis Team on our work in progress. We’re also actively collaborating with partners at other state agencies, and we’d appreciate your feedback and ideas too. Feel free to contact us at: vickie.ybarra@del.wa.gov

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Public Records Office: A Cornerstone of Democratic Institutions

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is committed to transparency and excellence in records management. To accomplish this goal, DEL has a small but mighty public records team. The public records team is responsible for keeping DEL in compliance with public records laws, but also to serve as a resource for the communities we serve.  Any member of the public can request documents and records from our agency for non-commercial purposes, and the public records team will make sure the right documents are delivered.  With their hard work and expertise, they are the very essence of an open and transparent government, one of the cornerstones of a healthy democracy.

As a public agency, DEL is subject to the Washington State Public Records Act under RCW 42.56.  We work hard to be transparent in our operations because we know this makes us better at serving and protecting children in Washington State.

So what is a public records request? Requests come in many forms including email, fax, mail, and carrier pigeon. OK, that last one hasn’t happened, but we’re open to it. Members of the public can request documents about almost anything at our agency.  This can include:
  • Policies that interpret state or federal law and are put in place by DEL. 
  • Administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect how we work with the public.
  • Reports, surveys, or research conducted by DEL. 
  • Correspondence by DEL employees, both to other employees and to members of the public.
As you can imagine, even for a small agency like DEL, that adds up to a lot of records requests every year.  We typically process between 200-250 requests a year, or about 16-20 requests each month.  Each request can vary in the number of documents it entails; one of the largest requests submitted to DEL requested thousands of employee emails!  Before releasing records to the public, our team reviews all of the requested documents for possible exemptions. The public records team walks a tightrope to ensure transparency in the work DEL does for the public while also protecting sensitive information for the families and children we serve.

The work of our public records team isn’t flashy or glamorous, and you will never find a five-year-old child dressing up as a public records officer for Halloween or career day.  But a strong and effective public records team is the backbone of our commitment to transparency, and an integral part of our civic duty as a state agency.

Do you have a public records request to make?  Visit our webpage to learn more: https://del.wa.gov/helpful-resources/other-resources/make-public-records-request.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

DEL is accepting applications for a Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee of the Early Learning Advisory Council

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is recruiting members for a new Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee of the Washington Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC). This new subcommittee will be tasked with providing input on licensing and subsidy rules and regulations. 

Membership Requirements 

Members will represent a licensed child care center and Washington’s regional, racial, and cultural diversity. Members will serve two-year terms that expire on June 30th of the second year. We anticipate that the subcommittee will initially meet quarterly, and then reassess the need after the first year. Members are expected to attend the majority of meetings and be prepared to actively participate. Participants who volunteer in additional subcommittees or work groups should expect to meet outside of the regular meeting dates. 

Supports for Members

Subcommittee members are eligible for mileage reimbursements to help support participation. Mileage will be reimbursed at current state travel reimbursement rates and in accordance with the State of Washington Office of Financial Management Travel Regulations. Current rates for travel can be accessed at: http://www.ofm.wa.gov/policy/10.90.htm#10.90.10.

If you are interested, please fill out the application and submit it in one of the following ways by September 30, 2017:

Dept. of Early Learning 
State/Local Coordinatio
PO Box 40970
Olympia, WA 98504-0970
Drop-Off at:
Dept. of Early Learnin
State/Local Coordination 
1110 Jefferson St SE
Olympia, WA 98501
Feel free to contact us (slc@del.wa.gov) with any questions. 

Process and Timeline

September 30, 2017: Recruitments due to DEL
October 9-13, 2017: Recruitment Review
October 23, 2017: Applicants Notified
November 1, 2017: Membership Terms Begin