The Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) has committed to a goal of ensuring that ninety percent of children in Washington are ready for kindergarten by 2020, with race and family income no longer predictors of success. Children of color make up forty-six percent of entering kindergartners, and they are underrepresented among children who start school with all of the skills they need to thrive. The purpose of the Department’s Racial Equity Initiative is to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy that strengthens DEL’s capacity to advance racial equity in the early learning system and eliminate disparities in outcomes for children.
DEL’s school readiness goal is a complex and major undertaking that will likely present many challenges, particularly around eliminating racial disparities. Making an impact on child and family outcomes will require a long-term commitment and a strategy that is developed and implemented in partnership with families, communities of color and key partners. The current focus is on laying a strong foundation for ongoing efforts.
As a starting point, DEL will:
- Develop and implement a comprehensive racial equity strategy. This strategy will include a racial equity framework or shared approach to leading for equity, and a racial equity plan with specific goals and priorities that have the greatest impact on closing opportunity gaps and removing barriers for children, families and professionals of color.
- Develop and continually refine tools and processes necessary to implement the racial equity strategy, including tailored racial equity impact analysis tools, an agency-wide family, community and stakeholder engagement protocol, and disaggregated data and metrics to measure the impact of DEL’s actions.
- Train and support DEL staff to increase their knowledge, awareness and capacity to lead for equity. The first step is to convene and support a Racial Equity Team that will provide leadership in developing the racial equity strategy, tools, training and processes, as well as model culturally and linguistically responsive practices. The team will play a critical role in setting the conditions and environment necessary to engage others in racial equity conversations and efforts.
Evette Jasper is the State/Local Coordination Administrator at the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL). She coordinates efforts to increase partnerships and collaboration across state and regional levels to build an early childhood system that is responsive to the experiences and needs of Washington’s children and families. This has included managing the Early Learning Advisory Council, Parent Advisory Group, Birth to Three Subcommittee and prenatal to three systems design efforts. She is currently leading efforts to strengthen DEL’s capacity to advance racial equity and eliminate disparities in school readiness outcomes.