This blog post is the final installment of a four-part series about School Readiness.
Catch up here>>
As we explored in our last post, school readiness assessments help communities identify the characteristics and experiences of children at risk for not being ready for kindergarten, as well as interventions and activities that can close readiness gaps. However, the results from these assessments are only valuable in so far as they inform action. In this blog post, we explore ways in which partners have used data gathered from school readiness assessments to turn the curve on readiness in their communities.
School Readiness Assessment (SRA) data have been used to...
Create readiness guides for parents
- Several counties, including Santa Clara, San Francisco, and Sacramento, have created pamphlets and handbooks for parents and caregivers, to help them understand what school readiness means, what their child should know before entering kindergarten, and what steps they can take to help their child be ready for kindergarten. These guides emphasize the role of parents and caregivers as the child’s first teacher and have been offered in various languages, including English, Spanish, and Vietnamese. Santa Clara’s guide can be accessed online here>>
Strengthen preschool to kindergarten articulation, alignment, and collaboration
- In Santa Cruz County, children exiting preschool were administered the preschool version of ASR’s Kindergarten Observation Form (KOF) readiness assessment. The results from this assessment were combined with child and family background information from a parent survey and a photo of the child. This package of information was then passed along to the child’s kindergarten teacher, thereby helping the teacher understand their incoming students’ strengths and needs so that they could tailor their instruction.
- In Napa County, school readiness data have been presented to school teams composed of parents, family navigators, preschool teachers, kindergarten teachers, and elementary school principals, sparking discussion about how they can work together to meet the needs of children and families as they transition into kindergarten.
- From 2010 to 2014, ASR helped the Marin Community Foundation carry out kindergarten readiness assessments each year to set a baseline of readiness in the county and measure the effectiveness of its Pre-K to 3rd Initiative over time. The initiative sought to increase access to early learning experiences and encourage parent involvement among low income children, with the goal of improving the readiness in five targeted districts. The initiative also helped nine school teams to engage in targeted efforts to align educational practices from preschool through third grade. Annual school readiness assessment data were used by each school team to monitor the impact of their efforts and make adjustments where needed. The Initiative is still continuing to this day.
Better serve children who are not yet ready for kindergarten
- Partners in Sacramento County used SRA data to identify the children in their community, as well as those within their programs, who needed extra support to be ready for kindergarten. For example, the analysis identified regions of the county with lower readiness to help target school readiness programming where it was needed most. In addition, the study showed that children who received a First 5 service, but were still not ready for kindergarten, were more likely to be English Learners, suggesting these children and their families needed additional supports and/or modified services to be ready for school.
- In East San Jose, the Alum Rock Union Elementary School District Prenatal to Third Grade Health and Early Learning System was formed to address the low third grade reading proficiency across the district (only 33% of third graders are reading at grade level). In partnership with First 5 Santa Clara, a baseline school readiness assessment was conducted in 2016 and again in 2017 to understand the level of kindergarten readiness in the district, as well as the parent and child factors that most contribute to readiness. The findings indicated that children benefit from preschool and First 5 services. The partnership will be focused in the coming years on increased outreach to children and families prior to kindergarten and strengthening cross referrals between First 5 programs and partner preschools to ensure children and families have the opportunity to access the full range of services available. The findings from the SRA are also being shared at three conferences to help other communities learn how they can build a similar model to narrow the kindergarten readiness gap.
Identify and support the early childhood interventions and practices that impact school readiness
- In several communities, SRA data have been used to sustain funding of early childhood education programs and supports that improve readiness. For example, readiness assessments in San Francisco and Sacramento have demonstrated that children attending First 5-funded preschools have significantly higher readiness than children without preschool. Likewise, assessments in Sacramento showed that receiving certain First 5 services, namely health and developmental screenings and family literacy services, was associated with higher self-regulation skills. First 5 services also been linked to families’ readiness for kindergarten: First 5 clients have reported receiving more information about school readiness and engaging in more school readiness activities with their children compared to families with similar backgrounds, but no exposure to First 5 services. Based in part on the compelling school readiness data, First 5 Sacramento has continued funding the school readiness initiative for another three-year term.
- Elements of preschool quality most highly associated with school readiness were identified in readiness assessments conducted In Santa Clara County. For example, in the 2013 Quality Matters study, SRA data showed that the lead teacher’s level of experience was significantly and positively associated with readiness for low income children. Similarly, the more professional development training the teacher had, the higher their students’ readiness scores. Higher readiness was also found among children in classrooms where the preschool teacher encouraged families to engage in educational activities at home. These findings allowed partners to pinpoint and continue to support the dimensions of preschool quality that make the greatest difference in readiness.
Inform local policies and calls to action
- Following multiple years of SRAs conducted by First 5 San Francisco, kindergarten readiness became incorporated into the outcomes framework for the city’s Our Children Our Families Council. The Council is responsible for improving coordination, effectiveness, and accessibility of services for children, youth, and families, and its outcomes framework articulates the milestones it wants all children and families to reach. As one of the common indicators outlined in the outcomes framework, school readiness is now being measured every year for every student by San Francisco Unified School District.
- First 5 Alameda, First 5 Contra Costa, and First 5 Siskiyou are using the SRAs in their counties to develop calls to action, encouraging all sectors in the community to commit to the success of young children. Using data on the key predictors of readiness, these calls to action have invited coordination and collaboration between those who work directly with young children, such as the early childhood education community, as well as those who may not otherwise see their role in supporting the outcomes of young children, such as the business and workforce development communities.
In sum, the purpose of school readiness assessments is to spark efforts that make a positive difference for young children and families. The examples described above offer just a snapshot of the myriad ways in which data can be used to turn the curve on school readiness. Contact us today for more information about school readiness assessments and how they can be a catalyst for change in your community.