Educare Seattle Leads the Way in Early Childhood Education

At the onset of the pandemic, Educare Seattle took a bold step in assessing the risks and rewards of reopening, to provide services to parents who are first responders. After adopting and implementing strict policies, procedures and practices for health and safety of staff and students, the White Center-based service, carefully welcomed students back in early April. Read about the process here. Learn more about how Educare was founded and their guiding principles.

In 2005, a $35 million federal Hope IV grant was secured and some of those funds were allocated to build the Greenbridge Community (previously called Park Lake Homes). The philosophy behind Hope VI is to integrate housing for the very poor within a new mixed-income neighborhood, and therefore eliminate the stigma and isolation of public housing. 

Puget Sound Educational Service District had been providing a Head Start program in the low-income housing community for many years, and the two institutions agreed to develop a partnership to include a comprehensive early learning center as part of the new housing development. 

KCHA funded land, and PSESD would fund a capital project. Through a partnership with the Gates Foundation and Thrive by Five Washington, the organizations began to imagine what a state demonstration site could look like, and they toured Educare sites in Chicago and Denver with Senator Ruth Kagi, an early learning champion in the State Legislature. 

Thrive by Five Washington was created in 2006 as the state’s public-private partnership for early learning, bringing together public and private partners to advance the development and learning of children ages birth to five, so that all children in Washington state are ready to succeed in school and thrive in life. In 2006, White Center, located south of Seattle, and East Yakima were chosen to be the two Thrive Demonstration Communities because of their strong local leadership, diverse populations, size and community commitment to improving early learning.

At that time, White Center was one of the most diverse communities in the state with 32,000 residents who collectively speak more than 70 languages. With an active network of civic and cultural organizations, the White Center community has a strong social capital, yet, one in five children below the age of five lives in poverty. In addition, 17.2 percent of fourth-grade students at White Center Heights Elementary passed all three sections of the Washington Assessment of Student Learning in 2007.

The White Center Early Learning Initiative was created to meet the needs of the White Center Community. It was a first-of-its-kind public-private community-based partnership, created to significantly expand early learning opportunities to children from birth to five years old in White Center.

Funded by two grants — $4.7 million from Thrive by Five Washington and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — for expanded early learning options for families with young children, and $7 million from the Gates Foundation for the construction of an early learning community center, the White Center Early Learning Initiative aims to provide parents and caregivers with education and support to ensure that all children in the community begin school ready to succeed.

"One of my priorities is to help ensure that children get the support they need to succeed in school and in life," said Gov. Chris Gregoire, co-chair of the Thrive by Five Washington board of directors. "This innovative partnership is helping to make best practices in early learning a reality."

The early learning initiative spent more than 18 months convening local stakeholder groups and developing business plans to make positive early learning opportunities — whether at home or in childcare centers — available to families in their communities.

These grants funded the first phase of those plans beginning in 2008. Funding was jointly administered by the Puget Sound Educational Service District, Child Care Resources of King County and Public Health of Seattle/King County. The process involved numerous focus groups with multiple language translations taking place in real-time through "e-polling," projecting information and answers on screens during the groups.

Educare Seattle opened in 2009, as a comprehensive early learning center serving 134 children. It became a center of excellence and lab school intended to provide training and professional learning communities for thousands of educators and service providers, influence public policy, and showcase community-driven innovations to close opportunity and achievement gaps.

In 2015, a P–3 Campus Project was initiated in partnership with Highline Public Schools. With shared leadership, professional development and enrollment across all PSESD Head Start, ECEAP and Highline School District preschool slots, Educare Seattle piloted a blended special education classroom, unified kindergarten registration process, aligned curriculum, and professional development.

In 2017, Educare Seattle partnered with the White Center Community Development Association to introduce play-and-learn in multiple languages. Partnered with WSA to build the White Center P–3, the Campus Parent Ambassador Program brings parents from all community schools together to advocate for education and early learning. Educare's best practice training hub has developed and implemented training for over 100 teachers.

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