Haring Center

December 14, 2021

Partnership Between UW Haring Center and Cultivate Learning Increases Access to Early Achievers Program Despite Pandemic Difficulties

The UW Haring Center for Inclusive Education, in partnership with Cultivate Learning, achieved a significant increase in participation for Early Achievers internship opportunities this school year despite challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2020-21 school year, the total number of registrants for the Early Achievers Individualized Internships was 134. Just this fall, there was a total of 173 registrants, surpassing the total number of registrants from last school year, and more are expected to participate this winter and spring. With increased access due to online flexibility, as well as course availability in Spanish, more professionals are participating in the Early Achievers internships than ever before.

“We are excited to offer increased support for coaches and teachers across the state of Washington!” said Julie Lockhart, partner manager for the Haring Center. “Expulsion of students with challenging behaviors is a significant issue in early childhood education and our hope is that through equipping coaches and teachers with tools to support all learners in their classrooms, we can make a real difference in the lives of preschool children.”

The Early Achievers internship opportunities began in the fall of 2014 through a collaboration between the UW Haring Center, UW’s Cultivate Learning and the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF, previously named the Washington Department of Early Learning) with the goal of universal kindergarten readiness in Washington state. Early Achievers aims to improve the quality of Washington’s early learning and care programs by instituting a statewide quality recognition and improvement system (QRIS) and provides a variety of supports to teachers and providers, including professional development, coaching, internships, scholarships and resources to support each child’s learning and development. Since the QRIS inception in 2010, Cultivate Learning has been an implementation partner with Washington state holding several roles within the system that involve data collection to inform program quality ratings and coaching, creation of professional development opportunities to support early learning best practices, community engaged research and evaluation and training and consultation to Washington coaches.

The main source of support to early learning and care staff through Early Achievers is ongoing coaching, with Early Achievers coaches going out in the field and working directly with teachers and providers on the use of best practices in early learning. To support this coaching, the Haring Center provides Early Achievers Individualization Internships for working with children with disabilities. These Individualization Internships are now offered virtually in both English and Spanish to Early Achievers coaches and classroom teachers and include half-day internships and mini extensions.

Half-day internships are two half-day remote internships that focus on deepening knowledge in several areas related to individualizing instruction, anti-bias education, supporting social-emotional learning and addressing challenging behavior for young children with disabilities and those who learn and behave differently. “This training was excellent,” said a coach who participated in the half-day internship. “I loved the format: PowerPoint, objectives, and then viewing videos. Very practical, real-world examples.”

Mini extensions are one-hour sessions, offered twice monthly, that build on knowledge learned during the internships and provide an opportunity for coaches to come together to discuss challenges they are experiencing and receive ongoing support from the Haring Center team. The mini extensions also focus on a variety of topics including social-emotional learning, trauma informed care, parent and family partnerships, inclusive large groups, anti-bias education, positive behavior support and strategies to support multi-lingual learners and children with autism spectrum disorder. These mini extensions are also responsive to the needs of coaches and teachers, so other topics are covered as requested.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Cultivate Learning has worked as a critical partner to re-envision Early Achievers into a virtual system and transitioned the QRIS to a quality recognition and improvement system. In this revised system, programs upload videos and other documentation of practice that provides data to support quality improvement and coaching. Like the Haring Center’s trainings, these supports have moved to a virtual modality which includes training, coaching, and annual institutes, all of which have seen increased attendance and participation. “The unique partnership between Cultivate Learning and the Haring Center was developed with an intentional focus on both Early Achievers coaches and classroom educators to access information from experts on supporting inclusive learning environments,” said Juliet Taylor, deputy director for Cultivate Learning.

This September, the Haring Center also provided mini-Back to School professional development sessions to support coaches as they collaborated with teachers to welcome back learners and families in classrooms and programs this year. Training topics included managing the classroom, supporting and preventing challenging behavior, zoning to maximize learning and creating an inclusive community through family partnerships. This series was also available to Early Achievers coaches and teachers in both English and Spanish.

Thank you to the Haring Center and Cultivate Learning staff who provide training, coaching and consultation for Early Achievers coaches and teachers and to our partners at DCYF who continue to make Early Achievers possible. By making this important program more accessible, more professionals can participate and make real, tangible change in inclusive early education practices in Washington state and beyond.