Representative Kagi and Early Learning

Post by: Barb Reinsma, SCS Preschool Director

I was excited on the morning of March 10. I was going to meet Representative Ruth Kagi and hear her vision for Early Learning in the State of Washington. Shoreline Christian School and the Washington Federation of Independent Schools were hosting an event for teachers, parents, and administrators to learn more about how the Washington legislature is working to shape the future of early learning in our state. I was excited because Verna Alberda, the Director of our child-care center, and I are at the tail end of the Early Achievers accreditation of the preschool and childcare.

Back on a warm June evening in 2012, Verna and I attended one of the first orientation meetings for the new program called Early Achievers, which focuses on quality child care and education for children ages 0 to 5. Early Achievers is part of a federal “Race to the Top” grant designed to improve education across the nation.

We wanted to be part of this process because we knew as educators that the first five years of a child’s life are the optimal for learning. Children are born ready to learn. The human brain develops more rapidly between birth and age five than during any other subsequent period. Brain research has shown that by the age of five, over 90% of brain growth has already taken place.

During the next two years, Verna and I attended over 18 hours of classes, hosted a “reflection group,” and compiled 37 files of material to be reviewed. We met several times with a coach to prepare for our “rating” day. On October 15, 2014, two evaluators from the University of Washington spent about six hours observing our program, reviewing our files, and talking with staff. On December 15, 2014, we received our rating: we scored 62 points, which put us at the top of the level 3 rating, just missing level 4. We are now waiting to meet with a new coach to discuss how we can continue to improve our preschool/childcare program with our $5,000 Early Achievers award!

Even though we have finished the Early Achievers accreditation, we are always seeking new ways to improve our childcare/preschool program, so I looked forward to hearing what Representative Kagi had to say. Since the federal grant expires this coming June, it is now up the legislature and the State of Washington to continue this vision of quality early learning. Capturing that vision Representative Kagi has sponsored House Bill 1491, which, along with Senate Bill 5452 introduced by Senator Litzow, is known as “The Early Start Act.” As Representative Kagi indicated, brain research indicates the critical importance of early learning, and the policymakers now understand the importance of quality early learning programs. It is now up to the legislature to fund the Early Start Act and continue the vision of Early Achievers. Meanwhile, we at Shoreline Christian Preschool and Childcare will continue to improve a great program.