State Early Learning Plan

Setting a path for early learning from prenatal to 3rd grade


Public and private actions in 2006 brought Washington state’s early learning programs together, through creation of the Department of Early Learning (DEL) and the public-private partnership, Thrive by Five Washington. But early learning was still fragmented and not connected to kindergarten through 12th grade schooling. In 2009 DEL and Thrive formed a partnership with the Office Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), which oversees the state’s K-12 learning.

The three partner agencies decided to create for the first time a comprehensive, 10-year plan for a statewide early learning system that would be seamless from prenatal through 3rd grade. Their aim was to create the plan by September 2010. Overseeing the work was the Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC), an advisory body to DEL created by the Legislature. ELAC organized an Early Learning Plan Steering Committee made up of 36 parents and professionals from the various sectors of early childhood development and learning. A multi-agency management team oversaw the process. The steering committee started meeting monthly and set up five work groups involving 150 people. Not long after the work groups started meeting, the governor asked DEL and OSPI for recommendations by December 2009 on how to assure that all children in the state have the benefit of early childhood education.

Cedar River Group was hired to help focus the Early Learning Plan development process and blend it with the governor’s request, facilitate the groups developing the plan, ensure wide public outreach, and meet the due dates for both the governor’s request and for the full plan.


Cedar River Group served as the project manager to facilitate the process and draft the plan. We worked with the Steering Committee, work groups and ELAC to develop a vision statement for the state’s early learning system and guiding principles for development of that system. We then helped the management team agree on criteria for prioritizing, and created a template for the work groups to use in choosing and describing the strategies and outcomes. We compiled the recommendations from the work groups for an initial round of public outreach and comment, then made revisions based on this input. We wrote a draft of the Early Learning Plan by December 2009 as an attachment to the response to the governor.

We then worked with the sponsoring agencies to create an extensive public outreach process for the draft Early Learning Plan. Our team summarized 3,500 public comments and an independent cultural competency review. Based on these comments, we recommended changes and finalized the Early Learning Plan for publication in September 2010.


The draft of the Early Learning Plan helped meet the governorís request for a product by December 2009. The final Plan received the desired extensive public review and opportunities to comment. The process was a cross-agency and cross-disciplinary effort, and involved parents and community members in a manner that gave them a voice in this important planning effort. The ELAC recommended approval of the plan to DEL, who adopted it as the stateís strategic plan for early learning. The Early Learning Plan is now used to guide the development of the early learning system in Washington, including the work of the DEL, OSPI and Thrive partnership, and local early learning coalitions.

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