When Washington state first created its Early Learning and Development Benchmarks in 2005 to outline what children know and are able to do at different stages of their development, there was concern from a number of communities, particularly communities of color, that they weren’t represented in the process or the results. But in 2012, the state Department of Early Learning, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Thrive by Five Washington, a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Learning Labs Network partner, led a revision of the guidelines in partnership with local communities and with racial equity at the heart of their work.
Janice Deguchi, the executive director of the Denise Louie Education Center, an early learning center that provides home visiting and preschool to more than 300 low-income, immigrant and refugee children in Seattle, was part of the committee that revised the guidelines.
“Racial equity in the Early Learning Guidelines is really essential if it’s going to be something that people use,” said Deguchi. “The achievement gap starts as early as 18 months. It’s really imperative for us as early childhood educators to eliminate that achievement gap before it can really get a foothold and impact the lives of children and families.”
This micro-documentary, a powerful two-minute film that premiered at the Learning Labs Network 2012 conference, captures the story around the new Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines, which are culturally relevant, reflect the latest research and were created with representatives from the early learning community, parents, K-3 teachers and principals and advocates from diverse communities around the state.
Deguchi said that racial equity in early childhood education is important “because racism can start early and we can stop it early” and by including diverse cultures in the process, the guidelines were generated from “the actual words and the ideas of the people that live in [the] state.”
The new guidelines, which are a way for families and caregivers to know what children can do at a particular age and gives them ideas to help children learn and grow, are impacting the entire population of children birth to age 8 across the state of Washington – a total reach of 800,000 children.