To build a coordinated early learning system, the Department of Early Learning, Thrive by Five, and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction—with input from hundreds of Washington residents and early childhood advocates—developed the Washington State Early Learning Plan. The plan serves as the state’s road map to ensure that all children have what they need to succeed in school and life.
We support several key initiatives to create a strong, coordinated early learning system that measures and improves the quality of services for children.
The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WaKIDS, brings families, teachers, and early learning providers together to support each child's learning. WaKIDS provides a statewide snapshot of where children in Washington are in their development at the start of kindergarten. This helps inform state-level decisions about education policy and investments and helps teachers tailor their instruction to children’s needs.
A woman and her four-year-old daughter read books together at their apartment in Tacoma, Washington.
WaKIDS has three components:
- Family Connection welcomes families into the Washington K-12 system as partners in their child’s education. During family connection meetings, parents and guardians share information about their child and get to know their kindergarten teacher.
- “Whole-Child” Assessment gives kindergarten teachers information about the social and emotional, physical, cognitive, and linguistic development of the children in their classrooms, so they may tailor their instruction to the individual needs of each child.
- Early Learning Collaboration aligns practices of early learning professionals and kindergarten teachers to support smooth transitions for children.
Preliminary findings revealed that more than one-third of the children participating in WaKIDS entered kindergarten below their expected skill levels. Children from low-income families were even further behind. On measures of cognitive development, children eligible for free and reduced-price lunch scored 25 percentage points lower than their classmates. Information from WaKIDS can help kindergarten teachers start the school year with the information they need to meet each child’s needs.
WaKIDS is paid for with state, federal, and private funding and is being implemented in all state-funded full-day kindergarten classrooms, with the goal to expand to every full-day kindergarten classroom in Washington. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Department of Early Learning work together to oversee WaKIDS.
We support a collaborative effort by the Department of Early Learning, University of Washington, and Child Care Aware to expand a statewide early learning program that was energized by a federal Race to the Top grant. Early Achievers (Washington’s Quality Rating and Improvement System) is a voluntary program for helping licensed child care providers offer high-quality care.
WaKIDS provides a snapshot of where children are in their development at the start of kindergarten.
Child care centers are licensed by the state to ensure they provide a safe environment for children. But providing a quality program requires more than just a safe facility— it requires adequate training for teachers, high-quality interactions between children and their caregivers, and opportunities for parents to be involved.
Early Achievers connects families to child care and early learning programs with the help of an easy-to-understand rating system. The program also offers coaching and resources for child care providers to support each child’s learning and development. Research shows this kind of assistance helps providers improve the quality of their programs. When more young children are ready for school, we all benefit. Learn more about Early Achievers at www.del.wa.gov/care/qris/families.
Preschool through Third Grade
We also provide grants to school districts to support partnerships with early learning programs to improve instruction, school transitions, and student supports to assure that children are ready for kindergarten and succeeding by third grade.
A teacher lines up her second-graders to go to lunch.
In Washington State, and across the nation, there is considerable movement toward this shared responsibility for early learning, often referred to as P-3. (The “P” stands for preschool and “3” stands for third grade.) P-3 efforts aim to integrate learning across a child’s first eight years—a unique developmental period in which children experience their most profound growth cognitively, socially and emotionally.
In school districts ranging from Edmonds to Yakima, Everett to Anacortes, and Seattle to Union Gap, teachers of 3- and 4-year-olds work together with kindergarten, first-, second-, and third-grade teachers to understand how learning builds year after year in language development or math. Districts including Auburn, Bremerton, Nooksack Valley, Bellingham, and many others are implementing an interdependent culture that encourages cross-classroom visits, blended resources, shared data, and active involvement from principals and superintendents.
Building on Progress
We are committed to working with a broad range of partners to increase school readiness and help children and families thrive.