Archive for January 2011

DEL releases new phase of MERIT, including user profiles

We’re excited today to launch a new phase of the online tool that will help child care providers and other early learning professionals track their State Training and Registry System (STARS) trainings and professional development.

The Managed Education and Registry Information Tool (MERIT) is DEL’s online training database available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to trainers and early learning professionals. Also inside MERIT are available trainings, training and educational completion forms and other tools. This new database will help keep accurate records, as well as build a stronger statewide professional development system. Check it out at

Starting today, child care providers and other professionals can create an online profile to help track their professional development.
They can also: 
  • Search for upcoming training events without logging in.
  • Look up a STARS ID if it has been forgotten or misplaced. Those who had a STARS ID before will continue to have the same ID in MERIT.
  • Apply online for a STARS ID number for those who have never had a STARS ID.
  • View and print full training history, including information from the old STARS database .
  • Update online basic personal information.
  • Begin an application to update education, certification/endorsement information and training profile.
Also starting today, trainers and training organization can complete their attendance lists and class payment histories. Once a participant is listed as attending the training, his or her training history is automatically updated.
Trainers are now recording attendance for trainings taken since the beginning of 2010. They have not been able to enter this information until now. Early learning professionals are encouraged to wait to call or e-mail DEL about missing trainings in their accounts until after June 1, 2011. Trainers need time to enter the information in MERIT.
If you have questions about MERIT, please e-mail or call 1-866-482-4325 and choose option 8. We are excited about this new tool and its potential for our state!

Working Connections Child Care subsidy program changes on February 1

Beginning February 1, there will be new eligibility rules for the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidy program due to budget shortfalls and caseload increases.

At the Department of Early Learning, we know there has been some confusion about what exactly these new rules will mean. Here is a brief explanation of how it will work. For more information, please visit our WCCC web page.
Beginning February 1:
  • For new families applying for WCCC: These families must also receive a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant or be determined eligible for TANF to be eligible for WCCC. Once approved for WCCC, families may remain on the program—so long as they continue to meet all eligibility requirements—until they go above 175 percent federal poverty guidelines (FPG).
  • Families currently receiving WCCC: These families may remain on the program—so long as they continue to meet all eligibility requirements—until their income is more than 175 percent federal poverty guidelines (FPG). Click here to see the eligibility chart.
  • If your family currently pays monthly copayment is $50 or more, $10 will be added to your share of the cost of child care.
Families currently receiving WCCC must reapply before their current eligibility period ends, or they will need to meet the new eligibility requirement.
So what does “be determined eligible for TANF” mean?
Those eligible for TANF must be Washington State residents who are responsible for the care of children or who are pregnant. Families must meet:
  • Income and resource requirements
  • Citizenship or alien status requirements
Income and resource requirements:
TANF benefits are based on family size and income. When a household member starts working, half of the earnings are counted against the grant. If a member of the household starts receiving unemployment or another type of unearned income, the entire amount is counted against the grant.
To be eligible for TANF, families must have resources of $1,000 or less. Resources are things like:
  • Checking and savings accounts
  • Stocks, bonds, or mutual funds
  • Vehicle equity over $5,000
Find out more about TANF eligibility and how to apply, on the Department of Social and Health Services TANF section.

WaKIDS, child care licensing reports submitted to legislature

DEL submitted reports to the state legislature on two important bodies of work: child care licensing improvements and our kindergarten readiness pilot. Both reports were due on Jan. 15, 2011.

Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS)

WaKIDS is a kindergarten transition process that allows families, kindergarten teachers and early learning professionals to gather and share information about incoming kindergarteners. WaKIDS is being piloted throughout the 2010-2011 school year in 115 classrooms around the state, with approximately 2,600 kindergarteners. Click to see the report from DEL and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction about how the pilot was designed, implemented and recommendations for next steps.
WaKIDS information is gathered through:
  • A teacher-family meeting where they discuss items such as the language spoken in the home, family traditions, and a child’s likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses
  • An assessment of the child in four domains:
    • Social and emotional development
    • Cognition and general knowledge
    • Language, communication and literacy
    • Physical well-being, health and motor development
  • Meetings between early learning professionals and teachers to share information about children.
This information helps kindergarten teachers plan lessons and support each student in the best possible way. Data from three piloted assessment tools was collected and analyzed by the University of Washington, where staff are leading the research, data analysis, technical support for teachers and assessment materials. Click here to see the preliminary data report submitted by UW.
The preliminary results suggest that more than a third of those children participating in WaKIDS enter kindergarten below expected skill levels. In the area of language, communication, and literacy, nearly half of the children enter with skills below the expected grade level. While only preliminary, this important data that will help teachers, families, early learning professionals and policymakers understand how to move forward and help kids succeed in school.
For more information about WaKIDS, visit
Child Care Licensing Report
The 2010 supplemental budget directed DEL to develop a plan for how the agency can improve our child care licensing practices. These improvements should be focused on how DEL can increase efficiency, enhance relationships with providers and improve the quality of child care in Washington.
In its report, DEL’s recommendations include allowing non-expiring licenses, increased investment in child care licensing technology and moving toward weighted standards. Click to read the full report.

The plan collected feedback of parents, child care providers, DEL licensing staff, and early learning advocates through a regular work group and a series of online surveys for licensed child care providers at Because of necessary investments, it is estimated the full plan would take 10 years to implement.
In many ways, child care licensing already has a strong foundation in Washington. Data from the 2008 Market Rate Survey (which DEL conducts every two years as the state’s lead agency for the federal CCDF) show that the majority of licensed child care providers are satisfied with their licensors, and feel comfortable working with their licensors to ensure they offer safe, healthy care. The National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies ranks Washington’s child care licensing rules and oversight as among the top 10 in the nation, for both centers and family home child care (third in the nation for family homes and ninth for centers).

Seeds to Success gives first peek at quality child care ratings

Washington now has our first baseline ratings for Seeds to Success, the voluntary quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) our state is developing for licensed child care. The University of Washington, in partnership with the Department of Early Learning and Thrive by Five Washington, released the preliminary ratings in a progress report about field test’s second year.

Rated during the summer and fall, the 93 family home and child care sites participating in the two-year field test of Seeds to Success earned an average 1.04 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 as the top score. According to the report, there are many good things happening in licensed child care, but there is more work to do in providing children with high quality learning environments.
All programs were rated on four areas:
  • curriculum and learning environment
  • professional development and training
  • family and community partnerships
  • leadership and management practices
The UW’s Childcare Quality and Early Learning Center evaluated each of those areas using a combination of observation and two established measures of classroom quality: the Environmental Rating Scales (ERS), which measures a program’s environment, and the Classroom Assessment Scoring Scale (CLASS), which measures provider-child interactions. According to the UW report, both CLASS and ERS scores averaged in the mid range for quality.
While initial ratings are low, this baseline provides DEL and its partners with a wealth of new information and opportunities. This is the first time the entire system of quality standards has been tested. The ratings will be compared with ratings collected this spring to determine to what degree coaching, funding for professional development and other resources help child care providers improve the quality of care they offer families.
“The child care providers who are participating in this field test already are showing they care deeply about quality learning opportunities for our youngest children,” DEL Director Bette Hyde said. “These ratings help us get the bigger picture of the Seeds to Success system and what it can do in our state.”
Seeds to Success is designed to support licensed child care providers in improving the quality of child care they offer children and families. When fully operational, unbiased QRIS ratings allow parents to compare quality and make choices that are best for their families.
The five communities participating in the field test are the two Thrive demonstration communities of East Yakima, White Center and Spokane, Clark and Kitsap counties.
The Seeds to Success field test ends on June 30, 2011. DEL will then share trend data and overall averages – not individual facility ratings – as the standards and model are expected to change based on the results of the field test. This data will be used to inform our work expanding QRIS statewide.
For more information, visit

greens & mushrooms in creamy sauce

This feels like decadent comfort food and yet it's super healthy! I didn't measure so I'll try to estimate reasonable amounts. I'll update as I experiment more.

a bunch of kale or collard greens or other greens
1/2 head of cauliflower (can substitute 2 stalks broccoli or mix), cut into big pieces
1 leek, cut in big pieces
1/2 lb mushrooms, chopped
1/2-1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp vegizest (optional)
1 Tbsp d'angou pear vinegar or lemon juice (don't yet know which is better)
2 Tbsp seed mixture or any nut or seeds
4 dried apricots or prunes (mango?) or 1/2 cup pomegranate juice added during blending
optional: 1-2 cups beans

In one pot, steam the cauliflower, dried fruit, and leeks until tender. In another pot, steam the greens, mushrooms, and onions until desired tenderness. Blend the cauliflower, leeks, dried fruit, vegizest, vinegar, seed mixture and water from steaming in the blender. Combine this sauce with the greens, onion, and mushrooms (and beans if using) in a large serving bowl. yum!

post-surgery food

note: I will be typing with one non-dominant hand for several weeks (months?). so I'll be terse--could be a good thing eh?

Here's what I took for my 2-day stay at the hospital:

way too much food! All I ate on day 1 were the 3 clementines. day 2 was the bean soup and some carrots and an apple. I ate the rest on days 2-4.

I don't remember when I had this but it was too much food:

it's now day 6. I had some yummy veggie soup brought over by a friend, my bean soups from the freezer, yummy collard green's in sweet potato sauce (forgetting that this version tastes better), housemate smoothies in the morning--we're sharing a batch (serves 2). It is better fresh than freezing and thawing. raw carrots and cabbage and romaine. a wonderful meal from friends last night: black bean soup, salad w/ sunflower seeds, chickpeas and balsamic dressing (and some oil), a wonderful quinoa salad with potatoes and sweet corn from their garden (frozen). that was lunch today too.

I'm planning a super nutritious dinner with greens, mushrooms and onions in a creamy sauce. If it's good I'll post it. oh and in case you are wondering how am I preparing food, I'm supervising housemate. She is way out of her element--as I would be mowing the lawn--but is doing an excellent job. My parents will stop in for a few days to help out. And my friends have been wonderful. I'm very blessed!

Here I am in dress rehearsal for the big game. was advised to get a cheesehead and face paint. may just do it for fun.

And in case you are wondering, surgery went well. coming out of it is somewhat horrible. well, the whole experience is kind of horrible even though I got excellent, kind treatment by everyone I encountered. I was a druggy for a few days: antibiotics--gotta do it; pain killers--yucky detox when I stopped that; and no matter what you eat, pain killers put your bowels to sleep so you have to take stuff for that too. I got edema in my surgery hand. I guess it's normal, but it's freaky. I'm glad to see that going away. now I'm in the long process of rehab. I hope that all goes spendidly too. I hope none of those 1% chance complications occur. I never want to be a surgery patient again. knock on wood.

Governor announces proposal for new Department of Education

Today, Governor Gregoire laid out her vision for building a consolidated, streamlined education system focused on preparing students to compete in the global economy. Washington has come a long way in making children a priority in our state. Our governor wants to take the next step by focusing all education issues on student achievement by providing a seamless, state-level education system from early learning through career. You can watch her press conference on

Her proposal is bold, and it is sure to cause a lot of conversation this legislative session! She proposes creating one Department of Education with a Governor-appointed Secretary of Education. The Department of Education would include divisions dedicated to early learning, K-12, community and technical colleges, and universities. You can see the details of Governor Gregoire’s proposal by clicking here. The early years division would focus on “whole child” development, quality child care and preschool options, and parent education and information. This proposal will be brought to the Legislature for consideration during the session that begins next Monday, Jan. 10.

DEL staff will be closely watching this proposal and the discussion in the Legislature. Stay tuned!


Broke my elbow, have to have surgery and antibiotics and pain killers---yuck!!!! constipation, here we come. needless to say I'm bringing my own food to the hospital. What's the most powerful anti-constipation food??? Ill bring lots of raw carrots for sure. raw veggies too.

I'm eating simply, not real hungry anyway. just grabbing raw veggies and fruit from the fridge, soup from the freezer.

tomorrow's food

For tomorrow I made a large confetti salad from lettuce, cabbage, mango, banana, pomegranate seeds, seed mixture and a little orange vinegar. That plus a bowl of chili will get me through the day. I measured amounts to see if I'm following Dr. Fuhrman's general guidelines. He recommends (about):

1 lb of raw veggies
1 lb of cooked
1-2 lb of fruit (1 if trying to lose weight)
1 cup of beans
1-2 oz nuts & seeds (1 if trying to lose weight, more than 2 if an athlete).
1 cup starchy vegetable or grain (optional)

I measured:
2 lbs of raw veggies
not much cooked, just whatever's in chili
1.2 lb of fruit
about 1 cup of beans (counting tofu as a bean)
small amount of starchy vegetable (corn in chili)

That should be good enough. I'd like to incorporate more cooked greens and starchy veggies but it's more work during the week. It's easier to make a big portion of one thing and eat it for all the meals in one day. So maybe the cooked greens will happen more on the weekends.

Today's food

Today I entertained again and had lots of fun in the kitchen and with the guests. It also kept me from paying too much attention to the stressful Packer-Bear game. But it was still stressful, especially the ending. Fortunately we won. And both teams are going to the playoffs so our Bears-fan guests weren't too devastated.

I had fruit salad for breakfast (blueberries, strawberries, bananas, mangos), and chili for lunch. I snacked on a head of romaine lettuce while preparing Dr. Fuhrman's Vegetable Bean Burritos for the game. These are excellent, way better than I was expecting! I shouldn't post the recipe since it's not on any of Dr. Fuhrman's public sites, but it's on the member site, and in the 2nd edition of Eat to Live. It's a lot of vegetables cooked up with spices and pinto beans, and cashew cream. The cashew cream and spices added really nice flavor and creaminess. Yum! Here's a picture of it in a big pan (it makes a lot!):

I ate mine on lettuce:

The others had theirs on flour tortillas. I had actually purchased some healthy sprouted wheat tortillas but the filling was so good, I just wanted to enjoy it on lettuce. We also had salsa, guacamole and fruit (apples, bananas). I didn't eat much of that, but I ate some ice cream later from the leftover bananas. That was more than I needed. I have a hard time resisting frozen bananas.

Then I fixed tomorrow's meals.

confetti salads

This is my new name for my "microprocessor" salads, which can be misconstrued with electronic devices. Carol has a beautiful presentation of her confetti salad on her website. This is a much better name for it. I think she was also inspired by Carrots' thread on the Fuhrman forums.

New Year's Day food

Today I wasn't too hungry after the rich treats from yesterday--I ate more than enough of that almond chocolate dip, oh yeah, and the ice cream. So I didn't eat until after noon when I started getting hungry. Then I snacked on raw veggies while I was making Dr. Fuhrman's "Easy Three Bean Vegetable Chili." Here's a picture:

I didn't make it exactly like the recipe because I used a fresh onion, and romanesco broccoli instead of frozen broccoli and cauliflower; but it was pretty close overall. I like this recipe. The crumbled tofu (after freezing and thawing), and finely chopped vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower) have the consistency of ground beef, though obviously not the taste. The finely chopped zucchini when it cooks makes a nice thickener. However, without salt, the chili was a bit bland. I added some more cumin and chili powder and it was still bland. Then I got inspired and added some cinnamon and a finely chopped apple (in the food processor). That and the sweet corn provided just enough extra sweetness and flavor to make up for the lack of salt. Then it was very good.

Dinner was chili, a pomegranate, and some raw veggies during the rose bowl. It's not looking good for the badgers so I'm distracting myself.

Tomorrow will be another day of entertaining friends and stressing out over a football game.