In 2006, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) launched the Early Learning Initiative (ELI), a 10-year strategy for improving the school readiness of Washington State’s children. To achieve this goal, BMGF is engaged in a statewide public-private partnership to implement the initiative’s three main components:
1. Development of in-depth, high-quality, community-wide early learning initiatives in two demonstration communities in Washington State
2. Enhancement of statewide systems that support early learning
3. Support for implementation of promising practices in Washington State communities
Public-private partnership is central to BMGF’s strategy for achieving these goals. In 2006, as momentum for supporting early learning was building throughout the state, BMGF joined with other private funders and state officials to form Thrive by Five Washington: The Washington Early Learning Fund (Thrive). In tandem with the formation of Thrive, BMGF identified two Washington communities to serve as demonstration sites—White Center, an unincorporated area just outside Seattle, and East Yakima, a community in central Washington. After BMGF made its selection, groups of community stakeholders in each location identified the Educational Services Districts (ESDs) that serve these communities—Puget Sound ESD in White Center and ESD 105 in East Yakima—to serve as intermediaries for ELI planning and implementation.
In January 2007, Thrive took on the lead role in overseeing and supporting the planning process in each demonstration community. Current plans are for Thrive to continue in this role—working with the intermediary in each community to refine their business plans and develop detailed strategies for implementation, coordinating funding, and providing ongoing oversight and support. Thrive will seek to coordinate the activities taking place in White Center and East Yakima with other initiatives throughout the state.
This report, the first in a series of analyses of ELI implementation in the demonstration sites, examines the White Center community at baseline and the ELI planning process that took place there in 2006–2007. It is based on three main data sources: (1) a baseline site visit to White Center conducted in June 2007; (2) a network survey fielded in conjunction the site visit; and (3) observations of licensed child care settings, center director/family child care provider interviews, and lead teacher surveys conducted from June through October 2007.