Helping kids start strong.

Helping kids start strong.

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Early Learning

Pre-K nurtures and develops children’s natural curiosity into a love of learning that prepares them for kindergarten, with the academic, social, and emotional building blocks to do well in elementary school. But across communities, the quality of early learning is inconsistent, and not all children have access to good public pre-K. Statewide, just 66 percent of students entering kindergarten grasp early math concepts like sorting, measurement, and identifying groups of less or more. The number dips as low as 42 percent for young students of color.

We invest in developing, sharing, and implementing the knowledge, skills, and structures to ensure quality across the entire early learning system.

We’re focusing our efforts to increase children’s access to high-quality pre-K in Washington, Tennessee, and Oregon—states where we believe we can make a difference, and from which we will share lessons learned with the national early childhood education field. As we build evidence and expand pre-K, more children will have the high-quality early learning experience that prepares them for success in kindergarten and beyond.

All of this work builds on the investments we have made over the last decade to build a strong, coordinated early learning system right here in Washington State. That work began when the Department of Children, Youth and Families, Thrive by Five, and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction—with input from hundreds of residents and early childhood advocates—developed the Washington State Early Learning Plan. The plan serves as the state’s handbook to ensure that all children have what they need to succeed in school and life.

We have supported two specific components of that plan:

  • The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WaKIDS, brings families, teachers, and early learning providers together to provide a snapshot of where children 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.
  • Early Achievers—Washington’s Quality Rating and Improvement System—is a voluntary program that 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.