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Grants to Washington School Districts Will Help State's Youngest Learners Enter School Ready to Succeed

Five school districts awarded more than $2 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to integrate early learning and K-12 education

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Phone: +1.206.709.3400

SEATTLE -- The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $2,097,080 over two years to five Washington state school districts to help integrate programs for young children ages birth to 5 into K-12 education. The grants will help the districts more effectively connect with local early learning providers–such as preschool and child care centers–and will better align education for children from birth through elementary school.

In Washington state, less than 50 percent of all kids enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school; among the lowest-income classrooms in the state, only 25 percent of kids are ready. Researchers have found that achievement gaps present at kindergarten grow wider as children advance through elementary school. 

School districts can play an important role in helping their communities prepare children for kindergarten. By deepening partnerships with parents and community providers who serve young children, districts can help develop streamlined curriculum, sponsor shared opportunities for professional development, and help children and families make a successful transition into school.

"All children deserve the chance to begin kindergarten ready to succeed," said Gates Foundation co-chair Bill Gates Sr. "But in Washington state, too many children lack access to high-quality care and preschool opportunities during their first five years of life. Our local school districts are uniquely poised to help a wide array of early learning providers better integrate their efforts so that more children can begin school on the right foot."

Each of the grantee districts have demonstrated leadership in early learning and have developed strong partnerships with their local Head Start and ECEAP (Early Childhood Educations and Assistance Program) providers. The districts will carefully evaluate their programs and share their results with early learning and education experts throughout the state.

Anacortes School District will receive $533,000 to develop an aligned curriculum for birth-to-3 education; formalize partnerships with community agencies and early childhood experts; and continue progress at the Whitney Early Learning Center, an early education center located in an Anacortes elementary school.

Nooksack Valley School District will receive $492,856 to expand Early Head Start and ECEAP programs; help eligible families to access these programs; and to align early literacy and language acquisition strategies for children from birth through second grade.

Olympia School District will receive $379,275 to implement a language-and-play curriculum called Tools of the Mind in community early learning centers and school district preschools and to sponsor early learning consortium meetings to deepen relationships among school district preschools, early elementary teachers, and community early learning providers.

Sedro Woolley School District will receive $341,150 to engage parents and community early learning providers; share professional development opportunities with community providers; and expand the Ready! for Kindergarten program to help establish a community-wide early learning effort.

South Bend School District will receive $350,799 to establish a shared early learning vision among school district preschool, kindergarten and elementary educators, and community providers focused on developing an aligned curriculum and engaging parents.

Across Washington state, the Gates Foundation is committed to improving access to high-quality early learning for all children. The foundation has partnered with Thrive by Five Washington to fund high-quality programs for children from birth to 5 in East Yakima and in King County's White Center neighborhood, two demonstration communities selected in 2006 to significantly increase the school readiness rates among children entering kindergarten from those areas.

The Gates Foundation also funds promising early learning models across Washington to expand existing quality services for young children throughout the state. Through these grants, the foundation aims to support community-based efforts that hold the promise of becoming effective models that can be replicated on a larger scale.

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