Education Pathways recognizes that the full cycle of educating our youth spans decades, following a child in Washington from birth until they start a career. We must enlist the support of parents, educators, local communities, advocates, schools, and regional and state agencies to enhance the educational opportunities for our children. We do this by providing grants that support additional investments, such as federal funding from Race to the Top, or advancing work in five key areas that will help more students succeed:
Our Education Pathways grants emphasize Early Learning and K-16 Education, and include a specific focus on the Road Map Project region of South Seattle and South King County. We also work to ensure our programs and partners support the diverse set of families and communities throughout the state.
Early learning is one of the best investments to make in a child’s future. That is why, since 2005, we have worked with public, private, and community partners to ensure highquality early learning opportunities that help children enter school ready to learn and succeed. These include home visiting services, which support parents in their role as their children’s first and most important teacher, and efforts to improve early learning settings by increasing the quality of both the learning environments and the interactions between children and their adult caregivers. We also provide grants that improve and align the education children receive in preschool and the early years of elementary school.
Building a Strong Early Learning System.
It takes more than an increase in funding to make sure all Washington children enter kindergarten ready to learn. To build a coordinated early learning system, the Department of Early Learning, Thrive by Five, and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction—with input from hundreds of Washington residents and early childhood advocates—developed the Washington State Early Learning Plan. The plan serves as the state’s handbook to ensure that all children have what they need to succeed in school and life.
The Gates Foundation support efforts to ensure every teacher gets the support they need to do their best work.
We have supported several key projects from the plan to create a strong, coordinated early learning system that measures and improves the quality of services for children. This includes:
- WaKIDS. The Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WaKIDS, brings families, teachers, and early learning providers together to support each child’s learning. WaKIDS provides a statewide snapshot of where children in Washington are in their development at the start of kindergarten. This helps inform state-level decisions about education policy and investments and helps teachers tailor their instruction to children’s needs.
- Early Achievers. We support a collaborative effort by the state’s Department of Early Learning, the University of Washington, and Child Care Aware to expand a statewide early learning program that was energized by a federal Race to the Top grant. Early Achievers—Washington’s Quality Rating and Improvement System—is a voluntary program for helping licensed providers offer high-quality child care. Early Achievers connects families to child care and early learning programs with the help of an easy-to-understand rating system. The program also offers coaching and resources for child care providers to support each child’s learning and development.
- Preschool through Third Grade. We provide grants to a number of school districts to support their preschool through third grade alignment. These districts and early learning programs partner to improve instruction, transitions, and supports to assure children are ready for kindergarten and succeeding by third grade.
Support for Effective Teaching and School Leadership. Teachers are the most critical in-school factor for student success. That’s why we support efforts to ensure there is a great teacher in every classroom, that every teacher gets the support they need to do their best teaching, and that there are strong instructional leaders in early learning settings and K-12 schools.
Washington State is implementing a new teacher and principal evaluation project. We fund the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington Education Association, and Education Service District 113 to create a web-based tool designed to manage the process. We recognize great teaching and schools that are helping to close the achievement gap by funding KCTS public television station’s Golden Apple and Pathways of Education Excellence awards.
We also support the work of the Association of Washington School Principals to develop a leadership framework to assess what good leadership for principals looks like, particularly as it relates to improving student achievement. We support the work of the Center for Reinventing Public Education to examine the current and future needs for Washington’s principal workforce.
Students from Jason Lee Middle School in Tacoma, Washington, practice their LegoRobotics for competition.
Support for Advocacy. Washington State is home to a host of dedicated, passionate advocates working to help every student succeed. As leaders advocating for implementing important policies including WaKIDS, full-day kindergarten, strong evaluations, and college and career readiness efforts like the Common Core standards and College Bound Scholarships, we invest in the Excellent Schools Now Coalition and its many partner organizations. We provide funding for several local organizations that work to elevate the voices of teachers, parents, and communities of color. We support the Our Schools Coalition’s efforts on behalf of Seattle Public Schools’ teachers and principals.
Support for Innovation. We are working with state, community, and education partners to support the creation of high-quality public charter schools. In addition, because of the impact that science, engineering, technology, and math (STEM) learning has on student achievement, we have invested in the organization Washington STEM and its efforts in teaching and learning.
Through SkillUp Washington, we supported partnerships in six communities to accelerate the progress of young adults with lower educational levels. These partnerships—comprised of local community colleges, community-based organizations, and workforce development councils—provide educational and social support services that help participants succeed in community college certificate or degree programs that lead to family-wage jobs. We also commissioned a report from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to assess innovative schools across Washington.
The Road Map Project
Too often, educating kids is done in disconnected silos. Early Learning programs did not coordinate with the elementary school grades, nor did high schools with local institutions of higher education. At the same time, parents and communities struggled to understand how they could engage with their children’s schools.
We are working to change this in one region of Washington State. We invest in a collective impact approach in the region of South Seattle and South King County, referred to as the Road Map Project. The idea of collective impact is simple: No single program, organization, or institution can bring about large-scale community change alone.
The Road Map work is coordinated by an organization called The Community Center for Education Results (CCER). CCER helps to bring together the many organizations and people contributing to this work, helps to launch cross-sector projects, and generates data and research to help the project move forward. This strong coalition helped the Road Map school districts secure a $40 million federal Race to the Top district grant in 2012, which will be used to expand early learning opportunities, enrich science and math learning, and offer support to high schools so more students can take college-prep courses and get college advising.
Collective impact also relies on the contributed wisdom of many throughout the community. The investments we make are guided by the plans and ideas of hundreds of community members actively engaged in Road Map workgroups. Community-driven priorities include parent and community engagement, using data to set targets and rigorously measure results, monitoring early-warning signs to make sure students do not fall through the cracks, support for English-language learners, kindergarten readiness, third-grade reading, expansion of college access and raising completion rates, and improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills.
The foundation supports the Road Map Project by providing funding directly to the effort as well as many of the institutions and organizations working on educational outcomes in the area. For example, the Seattle Community College District is using a foundation grant to increase success of students taking developmental education—or remedial—courses. We also provide grant funding to multiple school districts in South King County seeking to improve their parent engagement efforts, and to other districts that are increasing the connections between their K-3 teachers and their local child care centers.