Preparing for the School Year - Transition Summer Camps

Every summer, First 5 Sacramento funds a number of transition summer camps throughout the county through the school districts. Although specific implementations of the camps vary across districts, the programs generally promote readiness skills in children and inform parents about child development and preparing for the transition to kindergarten. The camps focus on preparing children for starting kindergarten and they, emphasizing skills in numeracy, literacy, and social-emotional development, are intended to serve under-resourced children who might otherwise not have access to preschool or other school readiness programs.

In partnership with First 5 Sacramento, Applied Survey Research (ASR) has conducted assessments of school readiness among students entering kindergarten in the County of Sacramento between the fall of 2012 and 2017. Data have been collected and reported annually over that time to better understand the entering kindergarten students and their families, their home environments, enrichment and kindergarten preparation experiences, and engagement with First 5-sponsored programs and services in order to better address the readiness needs in the county.

Earlier this year, ASR analyzed the impact of transition summer camps on school readiness outcomes and found the following:

  • First 5 transition summer camps are serving children who typically have greater readiness needs than their peers.

    Boys, English Learners, children with special needs, and children from families with low maternal education and income levels tend to enter school less ready than their peers, and the First 5 transition camps program has a high rate of participation from children in these groups.

    Students who attended First 5 transition summer camps had other readiness risks as well, some of which may suggest a need for additional parenting supports for this subgroup. These students were more likely to appear to their teachers to be tired and hungry, despite similar levels of household income and similar levels of caregiver concern about affording food and feeding their family. This subgroup also reported somewhat more parenting strain and less use of local community enrichment resources such as zoos, parks, and recreational programs.
     
  • Readiness comparisons that are adjusted for sample differences show a clear benefit associated with transition summer camp participation when a child has had no other preschool or Transitional Kindergarten (TK).

    These effects were strongest for Kindergarten Academics skills (both in average readiness levels and the percent who were fully ready), but there were also marginally significant benefits associated with First 5 transition summer camp participation for Social Expression skills (in average readiness levels and the percent who were fully ready) and Self-Regulation (in average readiness levels). Read our blog series on school readiness assessments to learn more details about these skills.
     
  • Among families whose children did not attend preschool or TK, First 5 transition summer camp participation is also associated with increases in caregiver efforts to learn more about their child’s readiness and to promote a smooth transition to school for their child.

    Caregivers exposed to the program transition summer camp content had increased rates of engagement in kindergarten preparation activities such as attending a parent orientation, meeting with their child’s teacher, visiting the school with their child, seeking information about the kindergarten transition, asking about their child’s readiness, and giving their child opportunities to play with others.
Thus, not only were transition summer camps found to be effective in boosting readiness skills for the intended service population, it also appears to be effective in increasing caregiver engagement in school readiness activities as well.

Thus, not only were transition summer camps found to be effective in boosting readiness skills for the intended service population, it also appears to be effective in increasing caregiver engagement in school readiness activities as well. Further analyses to examine the direct effects of the summer camps on the development of school readiness skills are currently underway, as a new set of tools to measure skills at the beginning of the camp and again at the end were pilot-tested this summer.

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