43.216.080  <<  43.216.085 >>   43.216.0851

Early achievers programQuality rating and improvement system.

(1) The department, in collaboration with tribal governments and community and statewide partners, shall implement a quality rating and improvement system, called the early achievers program. The early achievers program provides a foundation of quality for the early care and education system. The early achievers program is applicable to licensed or certified child care centers and homes and early learning programs such as working connections child care and early childhood education and assistance programs.
(2) The objectives of the early achievers program are to:
(a) Improve short-term and long-term educational outcomes for children as measured by assessments including, but not limited to, the Washington kindergarten inventory of developing skills in RCW 28A.655.080;
(b) Give parents clear and easily accessible information about the quality of child care and early education programs;
(c) Support improvement in early learning and child care programs throughout the state;
(d) Increase the readiness of children for school;
(e) Close the disparities in access to quality care;
(f) Provide professional development and coaching opportunities to early child care and education providers; and
(g) Establish a common set of expectations and standards that define, measure, and improve the quality of early learning and child care settings.
(3)(a) Licensed or certified child care centers and homes serving nonschool-age children and receiving state subsidy payments must participate in the early achievers program by the required deadlines established in RCW 43.216.135.
(b) Approved early childhood education and assistance program providers receiving state-funded support must participate in the early achievers program by the required deadlines established in RCW 43.216.515.
(c) Participation in the early achievers program is voluntary for:
(i) Licensed or certified child care centers and homes not receiving state subsidy payments; and
(ii) Early learning programs not receiving state funds.
(d) School-age child care providers are exempt from participating in the early achievers program. By July 1, 2017, the department and the office of the superintendent of public instruction shall jointly design a plan to incorporate school-age child care providers into the early achievers program or other appropriate quality improvement system. To test implementation of the early achievers system for school-age child care providers the department and the office of the superintendent of public instruction shall implement a pilot program.
(4)(a) There are five primary levels in the early achievers program.
(b) In addition to the primary levels, the department must establish an intermediate level that is between level 3 and level 4 and serves to assist participants in transitioning to level 4.
(c) Participants are expected to actively engage and continually advance within the program.
(5) The department has the authority to determine the rating cycle for the early achievers program. The department shall streamline and eliminate duplication between early achievers standards and state child care rules in order to reduce costs associated with the early achievers rating cycle and child care licensing.
(a) Early achievers program participants may request to be rated at any time after the completion of all level 2 activities.
(b) The department shall provide an early achievers program participant an update on the participant's progress toward completing level 2 activities after the participant has been enrolled in the early achievers program for fifteen months.
(c) The first rating is free for early achievers program participants.
(d) Each subsequent rating within the established rating cycle is free for early achievers program participants.
(6)(a) Early achievers program participants may request to be rerated outside the established rating cycle. A rerating shall reset the rating cycle timeline for participants.
(b) The department may charge a fee for optional rerating requests made by program participants that are outside the established rating cycle.
(c) Fees charged are based on, but may not exceed, the cost to the department for activities associated with the early achievers program.
(7)(a) The department must create a single source of information for parents and caregivers to access details on a provider's early achievers program rating level, licensing history, and other indicators of quality and safety that will help parents and caregivers make informed choices. The licensing history that the department must provide for parents and caregivers pursuant to this subsection shall only include license suspension, surrender, revocation, denial, stayed suspension, or reinstatement. No unfounded child abuse or neglect reports may be provided to parents and caregivers pursuant to this subsection.
(b) The department shall publish to the department's web site, or offer a link on its web site to, the following information:
(i) Early achievers program rating levels 1 through 5 for all child care programs that receive state subsidy, early childhood education and assistance programs, and federal head start programs in Washington; and
(ii) New early achievers program ratings within thirty days after a program becomes licensed or certified, or receives a rating.
(c) The early achievers program rating levels shall be published in a manner that is easily accessible to parents and caregivers and takes into account the linguistic needs of parents and caregivers.
(d) The department must publish early achievers program rating levels for child care programs that do not receive state subsidy but have voluntarily joined the early achievers program.
(e) Early achievers program participants who have published rating levels on the department's web site or on a link on the department's web site may include a brief description of their program, contingent upon the review and approval by the department, as determined by established marketing standards.
(8)(a) The department shall create a professional development pathway for early achievers program participants to obtain a high school diploma or equivalency or higher education credential in early childhood education, early childhood studies, child development, or an academic field related to early care and education.
(b) The professional development pathway must include opportunities for scholarships and grants to assist early achievers program participants with the costs associated with obtaining an educational degree.
(c) The department shall address cultural and linguistic diversity when developing the professional development pathway.
(9) The early achievers quality improvement awards shall be reserved for participants offering programs to an enrollment population consisting of at least five percent of children receiving a state subsidy.
(10) In collaboration with tribal governments, community and statewide partners, and the early achievers review subcommittee created in RCW 43.216.075, the department shall develop a protocol for granting early achievers program participants an extension in meeting rating level requirement timelines outlined for the working connections child care program and the early childhood education and assistance program.
(a) The department may grant extensions only under exceptional circumstances, such as when early achievers program participants experience an unexpected life circumstance.
(b) Extensions shall not exceed six months, and early achievers program participants are only eligible for one extension in meeting rating level requirement timelines.
(c) Extensions may only be granted to early achievers program participants who have demonstrated engagement in the early achievers program.
(11)(a) The department shall accept national accreditation that meets the requirements of this subsection (11) as a qualification for the early achievers program ratings.
(b) Each national accreditation agency will be allowed to submit its most current standards of accreditation to establish potential credit earned in the early achievers program. The department shall grant credit to accreditation bodies that can demonstrate that their standards meet or exceed the current early achievers program standards. By December 1, 2019, and subject to the availability of amounts appropriated for this specific purpose, the department must submit a detailed plan to the governor and the legislature to implement a robust cross-accreditation process with multiple pathways that allows a provider to earn equivalent early achievers credit resulting from accreditation by high quality national organizations.
(c) Licensed child care centers and child care home providers must meet national accreditation standards approved by the department for the early achievers program in order to be granted credit for the early achievers program standards. Eligibility for the early achievers program is not subject to bargaining, mediation, or interest arbitration under RCW 41.56.028, consistent with the legislative reservation of rights under RCW 41.56.028(4)(d).
(12) The department shall explore the use of alternative quality assessment tools that meet the culturally specific needs of the federally recognized tribes in the state of Washington.
(13) A child care or early learning program that is operated by a federally recognized tribe and receives state funds shall participate in the early achievers program. The tribe may choose to participate through an interlocal agreement between the tribe and the department. The interlocal agreement must reflect the government-to-government relationship between the state and the tribe, including recognition of tribal sovereignty. The interlocal agreement must provide that:
(a) Tribal child care facilities and early learning programs may volunteer, but are not required, to be licensed by the department;
(b) Tribal child care facilities and early learning programs are not required to have their early achievers program rating level published to the department's web site or through a link on the department's web site; and
(c) Tribal child care facilities and early learning programs must provide notification to parents or guardians who apply for or have been admitted into their program that early achievers program rating level information is available and provide the parents or guardians with the program's early achievers program rating level upon request.
(14) The department shall consult with the early achievers review subcommittee on all substantial policy changes to the early achievers program.
(15) Nothing in this section changes the department's responsibility to collectively bargain over mandatory subjects or limits the legislature's authority to make programmatic modifications to licensed child care and early learning programs under RCW 41.56.028(4)(d).

NOTES:

FindingsIntent2019 c 369: See note following RCW 43.216.091.
Effective date2017 3rd sp.s. c 6 §§ 102, 104-115, 201-227, 301-337, 401-419, 501-513, 801-803, and 805-822: See note following RCW 43.216.025.
FindingIntent2015 3rd sp.s. c 7: "(1) The legislature finds that quality early care and education builds the foundation for a child's success in school and in life. The legislature acknowledges that a quality framework is necessary for the early care and education system in Washington. The legislature recognizes that empirical evidence supports the conclusion that high quality programs consistently yield more positive outcomes for children, with the strongest positive impacts on the most vulnerable children. The legislature acknowledges that critical developmental windows exist in early childhood, and low quality child care has damaging effects for children. The legislature further understands that the proper dosage, duration of programming, and stability of care are critical to enhancing program quality and improving child outcomes. The legislature acknowledges that the early care and education system should strive to address the needs of Washington's culturally and linguistically diverse populations. The legislature understands that parental choice and provider diversity are guiding principles for early learning programs.
(2) The legislature intends to prioritize the integration of child care and preschool in an effort to promote full day programming. The legislature further intends to reward quality and create incentives for providers to participate in a quality rating and improvement system that will also provide valuable information to parents regarding the quality of care available in their communities." [ 2015 3rd sp.s. c 7 § 1.]
FindingDeclarationCaptions not law2007 c 394: See notes following RCW 43.216.010.
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