Thursday, November 5, 2015

Race to the Top: Grant Supports Significant Progress for WA Early Learners

This past October, Washington joined other RTT-ELC (Race to the Top, Early Learning Challenge) grant recipients (states who have received this game-changing grant award, which supports efforts towards successful comprehensive state systems and high-quality, accountable programs) for a three-day meeting in Arlington, VA. 
Bringing together state teams of RTT-ELC grantees to share information and discuss current issues related to early learning, this year’s meeting honored the nine “Phase-1” grant recipients (the first states awarded with RTT-ELC grant funding) by presenting them with “The Little Engine that Could” signed by Libby Doggett and Linda Smith, along with a personalized note from Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education. 
During the presentation, federal program officers highlighted the progress achieved by each of the early grant recipients.  
In 2014, Washington's Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge was one of refinement and tailoring to ensure the strongest outcomes possible. Washington made significant progress among all of the reform areas outlined in the RTT-ELC application. Some noteworthy accomplishments of Washington state, also included in the Annual Performance Report (APR), are:
  • At the end of 2014, total participation in Early Achievers, (Washington’s quality rating and improvement system) was 2,448, reaching 43% of licensed providers, and 182 ECEAP contractors/Head Start grantees; Early Achievers is reaching 66,413 children, or 85% of the RTT-ELC target.
  • Increased quality focus in state subsidy through implementation of tiered reimbursement aligned with the Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (TQRIS).
  • Infant/Toddler Coaching and Consultation is integrated with Early Achievers and available to Early Achievers participants to improve the quality of infant/toddler classrooms.
  • Early Achievers Institutes, which provide focused professional development to child care and early learning professionals participating in Early Achievers, are offered by the University of Washington (UW). The Institutes offer sessions ranging from improving instructional support to incorporating developmental screenings. Begun in 2013, the Institutes have been held 6 times across the state (in English and Spanish) and have been attended by 1,500 participants (four additional institutes are offered throughout 2015).
  • Technical assistance specialists and coaches reflect community diversity in staff composition and culturally competent practices. Of the 78 coaches and technical assistance specialists, 34% speak a second language in addition to English including Spanish, Somali, Russian, Vietnamese, Swahili, Tagalog, Hindi, and Arabic.
  • Washington uses Teaching Strategies GOLD® as its Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA), and in 2014 assessed 43,298 kindergarten students, reaching for the first time over half (52%) of the state's kindergartners, more than doubling participation in two years. Known as the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WaKIDS, Washington’s KEA process includes whole-child assessment, family connection and early learning collaboration, supporting a successful start to a child’s K-12 experience and connects to with key adults.
  • Washington is beginning the development of an Early Childhood Education Career Planning Portal. This portal is a way for professionals to learn about early learning career pathways and the colleges and universities that offer degrees and certifications towards their chosen career.
  • Sustaining progress of RTT-ELC: The Early Start Act was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Inslee July, 2015. This historic legislation invests in expanding high quality early learning for Washington’s children and families, building on the progress made by RTT-ELC, particularly in our most diverse and vulnerable communities. For child care providers, the Early Start Act focuses on supporting high quality early learning services through Early Achievers and ensures that child care providers, especially those who serve low income families, receive needed support and resources to sustain high quality programming.

To read Washington’s 2014 federal report and see the federal summary for all RTT-ELC states, click here: 2014 Report.

Follow progress on participation in Early Achievers by clicking here: Early Achievers Progress.

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