Praise for Washington’s early learning program

The Seattle Times reports that a new report gives Washington’s early learning program high marks.

A new national report holds up Washington state’s 31-year-old preschool program for low-income families as one of the best in the country, weathering good economic times and bad without sacrificing quality.

It points to recent studies that have shown that the percentage of kids ready for kindergarten after attending Washington’s program exceeds the state average and that the students’ improvement in reading and math persists through fifth grade.

The report by the Learning Policy Institute says, 

Washington state is home to a high-quality state-funded preschool program that serves more than 10,000 of the state’s most vulnerable children. Washington’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) was modeled on Head Start and stands out for the extensive wraparound services that have been integral to the program since its inception in 1985, when it was among the few state-funded pre-k programs in the country. The program is relatively small and highly targeted, serving 3- and 4-year-old students whose families earn no more than 110% of the federal poverty level, or $26,730 for a family of four.

In our foundation report, we set an objective for early learning:

Focus early learning assistance on children most at risk of entering kindergarten unprepared.

Supporting that position, we cited, 

Economists Rob Grunewald and Art Rolnick conclude that investing in early childhood development programs “makes sense…because the returns are large, reliable and reaped by both the individuals involved and the general public.” They advise that programs should “be focused on those children at highest risk for developmental deficits. Conditions that indicate whether a child is at risk include low family income, violence or neglect in the home, low parent-education levels, low birth weight and parent chemical addiction.”

Washington’s targeted program has demonstrated enduring success, expanding opportunity to at-risk students and their families. Congratulations to all involved!