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    About the Seattle Public Schools Early Learning Department

    Research has firmly established that investing in early learning yields powerful benefits for children; both in early elementary and in as a cornerstone to their overall educational success.

    Yet it is not enough to provide quality education for a year or two in a child's early years.

    Our vision

    Every child will experience a quality, cohesive and joyful learning experience from PreK through 3rd grade that will provide the strong foundation needed to succeed in school and life. Children are in classrooms with a positive climate and with teachers who are ready and able to meet their needs by articulating and implementing high quality early learning environments and instruction.

    Who we serve

    Seattle Public Schools Early Learning department serves three main constituencies:

    • Families of children ages 3 through 8
    • Teachers of these children
    • Community organizations 

    Linking with families

    Through Enrollment outreach events held in different Seattle neighborhood schools each fall, Early Learning staff work to promote smooth and predictable transitions for young children beginning their school careers.  

    For a week in late August, the majority of Seattle elementary and K-8 schools participate in Jump Start, a transition-to-Kindergarten experience that helps ease fears and acclimate children to the routines and features of their new school.  

    During the first three days of school, Family Connections meetings are scheduled at most schools to foster positive relationships between Kindergarten teachers and families and allow staff to learn about new students from those who know them best.

    Supporting teachers

    Early Learning Professional Development Coaches plan and coordinate high quality learning experiences for new and returning teachers across the preschool through 3rd grade cohorts.

    We are in our eighth year of work with REACH Associates, nationally known consultants, to provide professional development that serves to develop teacher capacity and to align instruction across grade levels as well as to embed expertise within each building.

    Multiple-session cohorts have focused on Balanced Literacy, Math, Science and Social-Emotional Literacy. This year’s REACH professional development sessions pinpoint different components of Balanced Literacy.

    RULER: Promoting Emotional Literacy

    RULER is a social-emotional literacy curriculum developed by Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence. Early Learning spearheaded the adoption of this curriculum, which is now in use at 50 SPS elementary and middle schools.

    In order to manage one’s emotions to successfully negotiate life experiences, whether at school, work or home, RULER promotes: 

    • Recognizing
    • Understanding
    • Labeling
    • Expressing
    • Regulating

    Teams of school leaders have attend multi-day RULER training sessions and have in turn shared this training with the rest of their school staff.

    The SPS Cabinet, Curriculum and Instruction department staff, representatives from community based organizations, Head Start and PreK staff have learned the 4 RULER “anchor tools” in order to promote system-wide emotional literacy training.

    The belief is that teachers and administrators cannot train students to manage their feelings and emotions if they have not first practiced these skills themselves.

    Collaborating with partners

    Community and governmental agencies are critical partners in the education of our children. To facilitate successful partnerships that will build to commonly shared goals for students’ academic and personal growth, SPS Early Learning staff lead a monthly Learning Partners Group and bi-monthly training for local early learning directors. 

    Both initiatives are geared toward building collective understanding of high quality P-3 instruction and alignment across District, community and governmental entities so that students benefit from cohesive education both in and outside of the classroom.