A Farewell and Final Top 5 from Thrive CEO
September 30th, 2013 by Nina Auerbach
I love this picture. (Well, except that my eyes are closed.) It marks a day in August 2009 that was a total game-changer for early learning in our state.
This round of high-fives came after state Superintendent Randy Dorn, Dept. of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde and I signed the Early Learning Partnership – an agreement that early learning and K-12 would work closely together on behalf of children and families. We were at the first Starting Strong Institute, and there were cheers and tears from the audience of early learning professionals and K-3 teachers. On that day, I knew we were doing something special in Washington state.
Oct. 3 is my last day at Thrive by Five Washington. I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about my last five years: What worked … What didn’t … What still needs to get done.
Here’s what I know for sure: The early learning world has changed dramatically since 2008, and Washington state has emerged as a national leader. When tough economic times deterred and derailed others, we rallied, prioritized and invested in young children and families. We should all be so proud of what we have accomplished together. I am humbled and grateful for the incredible contributions of the staff and board at Thrive, and for the wonderful spirit of partnership in which so much of our state’s early learning work gets done.
We’ve done a lot of great work at Thrive over the past five years, but there are a handful of accomplishments that make me especially proud:
- 1. We co-led the development of our state’s first Early Learning Plan, with its emphasis on the whole child and the most vulnerable. The plan has provided us with a vision and roadmap for creating a high-quality early learning system for ALL children prenatal through third grade. This plan was the foundation for our state’s successful bid for a federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Fund grant.
- 2. We helped create the state’s Home Visiting Services Account, bringing in public AND private dollars and launching a huge expansion of home visiting services to our state. The most powerful interventions begin at the very beginning by nurturing strong infant/caregiver bonds. The Dept. of Early Learning has been our consistent partner as we have worked with advocates, policymakers, funders and practitioners to bring more of these critical services to families throughout the state.
- 3. We developed and piloted the state’s quality rating and improvement system, now called Early Achievers. As part of that effort, we coordinated the research and proved the link between coaching and high-quality child care.
- 4.We led a statewide stakeholder effort to take on the critical challenge of eliminating the opportunity gap that too many children of color face. As a result, we now have a Racial Equity Theory of Change that complements the Early Learning Plan, and a Community of Practice that bonds us together as we work to reduce barriers for children and families who are furthest from opportunity.
- 5. We fostered a partnership with our state’s Early Learning Regional Coalitions, building local capacity around early learning and helping to bring community voices to state-level decision making. The coalitions are essential partners in implementing key work such as WaKIDS, the state’s kindergarten assessment process, and our powerful “Love. Talk. Play.” message campaign for parents.
An organization is only as strong as its people. This holds true for systems as well. We have amazing, dedicated champions and caregivers working tirelessly in this state to make a better world for our children and families. I am so thrilled that I will stay connected to early learning through my new role in infant mental health.
Thank you for the opportunity to lead Thrive. I wish you all the best and cheer you on because every child deserves a great start in school and life.