Guidance to Improve Alaska’s Early Childhood System Offered in New Statewide Strategic Plan

By Betsy Brenneman, Preschool Development Grant Coordinator

Alaska’s new strategic plan for its early childhood system has been finalized, approved by federal funders and Alaska’s Early Childhood Joint Task Force (JTF) has recommended it be adopted by the Alaska Early Childhood Coordinating Council (AECCC).

Early Childhood Alaska: A Strategic Direction for 2020-2025 outlines a series of bold actions to benefit children, prenatal through age eight, their families and communities with equitable access to resources, quality affordable care and education and every opportunity to succeed.

The five-year plan celebrates and emphasizes traditional knowledge, place-based learning, preserving indigenous languages and community-led initiatives. This plan also recognizes the importance of evidence-informed practices, trauma-informed care, and a healthy and well-compensated workforce.

It provides a road map for system change, for prioritizing early childhood, and for better collaboration between all those in the network of education, health, social services, child care and other programs and services that work to support young children’s learning and well-being.

Grounded in a 10-year vision that Alaska’s children and families thrive in a strong and equitable early childhood system, the plan has three goals:

  1. Alaska children and families are healthy, safe and stable.
  2. Alaska children have quality early learning experiences.
  3. Alaska children and families are supported by a functional, comprehensive, early childhood system.

To accomplish these goals, the plan offers 12 objectives, 38 strategies and 123 action steps to foster:

  • Strong and resilient families and communities
  • Integrated physical, mental and dental health
  • Family partnerships
  • Accessibility, affordability and high quality in early education
  • Smooth educational transitions for all children
  • Elevation of the early childhood system
  • Strategic funding
  • Data integration and accountability
  • A strong early childhood workforce
  • Coordinated implementation of the plan

Early Childhood Alaska: A Strategic Direction for 2020-2025 was funded by Alaska’s first Preschool Development Grant (PDG B-5) from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services awarded to the Alaska Dept. of Education and Early Development. AASB’s PDG Coordinator shepherded the project in partnership with the Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services and Alaska’s Early Childhood Joint Task Force of more than 20 public and private entities. AASB and contractor Denali Daniels + Associates compiled and incorporated the concerns and ideas of more than 400 parents, early childhood professionals, tribal, state and non-profit representatives who contributed to the plan during in-person and virtual meetings, a statewide online survey and a lengthy process of feedback and review.

The strategic plan was based on findings of Alaska’s early childhood needs, challenges and considerations from A Needs Assessment of Alaska’s Mixed Delivery System of Early Childhood Care and Education, Dec. 2019 also funded by the Preschool Development Grant, coordinated by AASB and conducted by the McDowell Group.

Some activities called for in the strategic plan are already underway through existing initiatives. Other expected steps will be mapping and analyzing current programs and services and making this information available to families and system professionals; partnering with families and local communities to ensure their participation; and establishing procedures and practices for collaboration and communication.

Reaching the plan’s ambitious goals will require all sectors of the early childhood system working together with businesses, policy makers, funders, tribes and community leaders to produce lasting educational, social, economic and health benefits for all Alaskans.

You can read and download the following strategic plan and needs assessment documents on AASB’s website www.aasb.org or at www.earlychildhoodalaska.com:

  • “Early Childhood Alaska: A Strategic Direction for 2020-2025,” June 2019 (30 pages)
  • “Planning Process Report and Appendices” (129 pages)
  • “A Summary of Early Childhood Alaska: A Strategic Direction for 2020-2025” (brochure)
  • “A Needs Assessment of Alaska’s Mixed-Delivery System of Early Childhood Care and Education,” December, 2019 (83 pages)
  • “Appendices” (133 pages)
  • “A Summary of A Needs Assessment of Alaska’s Mixed-Delivery System of Early Childhood Care and Education”(brochure)

If you would like a printed version of any of the materials, or a thumb drive containing all of the documents above, contact the Association of Alaska School Boards by emailing aasb@nullaasb.org. A limited number of printed copies and thumb drives are available.

You can find additional reports and information about the strategic planning process on the Early Childhood Alaska website.

For more information contact Lori Grassgreen, AASB’s Director of the Initiative for Community Engagement.

The project described was supported by the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five Initiative (PDG B-5), Grant Number 90TP0012, from the Office of Child Care, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Office of Child Care, the Administration for Children and Families, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.