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.

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