State's focus on early learning garners grant, boosts goals
In Washington state, early learning as a key approach to improving academic achievement is as basic as using preventive health care to stave off illness. No surprise Washington is ranked No. 2 in the nation for quality and access to child care and early learning.
Seattle Times Editorial
THE notion that investing in quality child care and early learning now saves precious education dollars down the road has kept Washington lawmakers protective of the Department of Early Learning, even in tough budget times.
The state's commitment to early learning has garnered a $60 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant. The money will pay for professional development for child-care providers and to improve early-childhood education.
So it is no surprise that Washington is ranked No. 2 in the nation for quality and safety by a national child-care advocacy group.
The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies' ranking affirms we are on the right track. Its rankings are based on how states oversee small child-care businesses — largely in-home child-care facilities. Additional confirmation comes from another report, this one by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, ranking Washington No. 7 in per-pupil spending on state-funded preschools.
A look at the competition nationally is a reminder that while Washington rightly struggles to do more, other states are still doing only the bare minimum to ensure early-learning opportunities for young children. Washington is one of just nine states requiring fingerprinting and a check against the sex-offender registry. A whopping 16 states do not regulate family home child-care providers at all. Yikes.
Studies show young learners who did not have early learning tended to have higher absentee rates and academic trouble in the early grades. The challenge for Washington is to ensure access to high-quality educational programs for all kids.
Goals for Washington include creating quality standards, curriculum appropriate for young minds, minimum provider-training requirements and a quality ratings method that will help parents shopping for early-learning programs.
Efforts and investment will create a coherent and robust system of early-childhood education aligned with our K-12 system.