Voices’ Blog

Piece By Piece- Building a Mixed-delivery Early Learning System in Virginia

Posted:  -  By: Emily Griffey

Recently Virginia policymakers have taken more interest in building a “mixed-delivery” system for early childhood education. We wanted to break down what a “mixed-delivery” system could be and what opportunities lie ahead. We have already highlighted some of the practices in place in Alexandria and Fairfax to establish public-private partnerships with Virginia Preschool Initiative funds. In addition, other communities are building Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.

What is a “mixed-delivery” early learning system?

The NEA defines it as a system that “includes services offered through a variety of programs and providers such as Head Start, licensed family and center-based childcare, public schools, and community-based organizations supported with a combination of public and private funding.” Sounds easy, right? Not always…. In practice it can look like public state preschool programs and Head Start overseen by the same fiscal agent. Or a private, community-based provider that offers Head Start, VPI and tuition-based classrooms. It can be an approach embedded in one organization, or within a community. Most significantly, the approach can be adopted at the state-level to best support collaboration.

What opportunities does Virginia have to support mixed-delivery?

This is a prime opportunity to envision how Virginia can better support mixed-delivery settings. We have a new School Readiness Committee that should consider this approach an overarching mission. The Joint Subcommitee on VPI Reform can look more about how funding policies and oversight of our public settings can support these approaches. Even the new ESSA federal education guidelines encourage states to look at building mixed-delivery approaches. To get there we need to answer some of these questions…

  • How can we support early learning professionals to provide high quality services with minimal differences in public and private settings?
  • How can resources be directed to improve quality in private settings?
  • Can we map existing early learning opportunities– subsidy, Head Start and VPI—by locality to identify polices to facilitate collaboration and recruit children and families?
  • Can we align program standards across settings to reduce administrative oversight? Can we align program administration across agencies to improve impact?

Can a mixed-delivery system mean more to us than preschool classrooms? How can we support families with mixed-delivery approaches?

Traditionally in thinking about a mixed-delivery system we think of the formal environments where children are learning—classrooms, providers, camps, etc. But I would argue that might be too limited. For young children learning happens wherever they are! And anything in their life (nutrition, safety, parental support, etc.) can affect their learning! Given that, we should also consider how we can build comprehensive supports for young children and families into our mixed-delivery system through better integration and coordination. For example, how can health care providers ensure children get quality care? And vice versa- how can early care providers ensure children get health care? How can all of systems work together to support trauma-informed approaches to build resiliency in vulnerable children? How do we bring services for the child and the family into the variety of mixed-delivery settings? How can we scale systems and ensure consistency across settings?

What’s next?

The to-be-formed School Readiness Committee provides an excellent opportunity to flesh out some of these strategies. For example, that group can help define the professional pathways that support mixed-delivery approaches. The new mixed-delivery pilot grants can help test some strategies to incentivize more mixed-delivery partnerships. Yet there will be many more challenges to face. At Voices we hope to bring advocates together around envisioning a mixed-delivery system that supports and variety of providers and ensures that vulnerable children have access to high-quality early learning settings. We are also committed to helping to look at the data and analysis that can shape our understanding of mixed-delivery systems choices.


If you would like more information about new initiatives and programs in Virginia working together to build mixed-delivery models please join us for our Innovation Symposium on Monday, June 6th in Richmond, VA. Find a more detailed agenda and register here to attend in Richmond or to livestream.

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