The history of Educare Seattle
By Aeryn King
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 was 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 began to imagine what a state demonstration site could look like. 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 5 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 5 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 First Months
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 child care centers-available to families in their community.
Those grants funded the first phase of 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 has 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, and 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 and learn in multiple languages, and partnered with WSA to build the White center P-3 Campus. The 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.