Students who get off to a strong start and have access to quality early learning experiences will enter Kindergarten ready to succeed and be more likely to read by third grade. School readiness starts long before a child enters a kindergarten classroom. 36% of the Sonoma County students who entered a Kindergarten classroom in the fall of 2019 were assessed as ready to go. In addition, a large disparity exists between Latino students and their White peers.
- Increased access to quality preschool: Currently, 85% of all Sonoma County children attend preschool. Based on research an 85% participation rate is considered universal. Reaching this benchmark is a success for Sonoma County.
- Quality Counts: Quality Counts provides assessment and coaching to early learning programs. Research has directly linked early learning program quality to positive outcomes in school readiness. By targeting resources towards increasing quality, overall school readiness will increase.
- Reading: Increase in the focus on the value of reading to children every day. This has been done through successful outreach and grants programs like iREAD.
- Transitional Kindergarten: Expansion of TK to provide more early learning opportunities before kindergarten.
- Political support: Increase in local leaders and state electeds, including the newly elected Governor, placing value of early learning opportunities.
- READY: READY has implemented a common observation tool and parent survey to assess school readiness across Sonoma County. For the first time ever, Sonoma County has data related to school readiness. In addition, READY has signed data sharing agreements with participating school districts. These data will be used to understand the impacts of sets interventions on school readiness, third grade reading and beyond.
- Lack of availability and high cost of early learning programs: One barrier to increasing access to quality preschool for families in Sonoma County is the cost of high quality programs. In order to eliminate the achievement gap caused by the growing opportunity gap, low to no cost, high quality, early care and education programs need to be provided to all families, especially low-income families who otherwise would not be able to afford opportunities like quality preschool. In addition, it is hard to attract and retain employees in the field because of low wages. While preschool is extremely important, a range of learning opportunities from 0 -5 need to be offered to support overall readiness. Home visiting, Pasitos and Avance are all examples of additional learning opportunities that contribute to readiness. Additional interventions in addition to preschool need to prioritized. At times, due to decreased funding, it is challenging to offer these programs. Currently, First 5 Sonoma County is a major investor in 0-5 programs. With the decrease in funding due to lower tobacco tax dollars, new revenue will need to be identified and/or a new strategy for investments to expand and sustain these programs. Lastly, a severe shortage exists for infant/toddler care in Sononoma County.
- Disasters: Sonoma County has experienced 4 Disasters since 2017 (two major fires, a flood and COVID-19). The disasters have put a strain on the system of early care, and on families and children.
- Key factors related to school readiness based on READY data: A large disparity exists between English speaking and Spanish speaking families, and in addition, income is also a large contributor to the likelihood to be ready for kindergarten. Also, the disasters have put a strain on our low- income families. The READY team is exploring these data further. Furthermore, based on the data from the school readiness assessment, the decline in school readiness can largely be attributed to the decrease in the social emotional domains. A number of factors could contribute to the decrease - increased cost of living, disasters and lack of access to quality programs. The READY team is exploring these data further.
- 0-5 and K-12 Systems: The 0-5 and K-12 systems are disconnected, and the lack of connection has led to, at times, a difficult transition from preschool to kindergarten.
- Federal immigration policies: Federal immigration policies lead to heightened sense of fear of the government which subsequently results in Latinx families in need of services not accessing care they qualify for and deserve.
Additional Research: low income and school readiness data, more exploration of the social emotional domain, deeper analysis of 3rd grade reading data and early interventions and landscape analysis of service delivery gaps and opportunities.