Every child enters kindergarten ready to succeed and 1 more...less...

All Sonoma County children have access to quality childcare.

Percentage of children entering kindergarten ready to go

32%2021

Line Bar Comparison
Story Behind the Curve

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. 

Contributing Factors:

  • 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. 

Restrictive Factors:

  • 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. 

Partners
  • First 5 Sonoma County – Major investor and overall strategic planning for improving school readiness.
  • Community Foundation Sonoma County – Investor in early learning programs and launched iREAD.
  • Upstream Investments/READY – Upstream promotes prevention focused, evidence-informed strategies that will improve school readiness. READY is a program of Upstream Investments. READY garners local support for increasing the quality of early childhood education and facilitating the transition of young learners from early childhood education to Kindergarten with the ultimate goal of closing the achievement gap.
  • Families- Families are a critical partner as their needs should be met through the programs provided. Their voice is integral to developing quality programs that work to improve school readiness. 
  • Early Care Providers and Programs – Implement quality programs starting at 0 and all the way through quality preschool.
  • John Jordan Foundation – Investor in early learning programs.
  • Libraries – Provide space, resources and connections to support reading. With the recently approved tax, library has expanded service offerings to promote reading.
  • Health Action/Cradle to Career – Backbone support for Goal 1 of Cradle to Career focusing on school readiness.
  • Hanna Institute – Programs and trainings to support social emotional and trauma-informed care.
  • Health Systems – Local plans prioritize school readiness and community benefit programs can be leveraged to support school readiness.
  • Child Care Planning Council - Child Care Planning Council (CCPC) of Sonoma County convenes and inspires the community through collaboration, leadership, and advocacy to promote and plan for quality child care and development for the benefit of all children (primarily birth to 12), their families, and Sonoma County.
  • School Districts – 40 Sonoma County School Districts
  • Elected Officials – Support policies and funding to expand school readiness offerings.  
What Works

Previous Goal Area 1 Workgroup Successes:

  • Launched Facilities Grant Program to expand the number of quality affordable preschool seats in Sonoma County - The workgroup identified a lack in suitable facilities as a barrier to increasing access to quality preschool in Sonoma County. With an initial $655,000 investment from the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and First 5 Sonoma County in a newly formed Facilities Grant Program, $2.4 million was drawn down for Head Start and State Preschools, saving and expanding 264 preschool spaces across the county. 
  • Expanded Pasitos Playgroups to increase the number of quality school readiness programs available for families.
  • Launched the iREAD Early Literacy Campaign to promote reading and parent engagement - Reading to children everyday has immense benefits for a child’s long term success.  Recognizing this benefit, the workgroup launched the iREAD campaign to promote reading everything, everywhere, anytime and with your family.  iREAD materials have been distributed at various agencies, departments, organizations and businesses throughout Sonoma County. Bookmarks include early literacy tips. The iREAD grant program was launched by the Community Foundation Sonoma County in the Fall 2015 and continues to provide investments. 
  • Launched Quality Counts – The Sonoma County Quality Improvement Rating System to enhance program quality  - In June 2015, First 5 Sonoma County was awarded initial funding for a Quality Improvement Rating System (QIRS) – locally called Quality Counts. During 2015, this new initiative brought over $2,750,000 to Sonoma County to increase and reward quality preschool and early education programs. Sonoma County has applied for additional fundsand expanded the QIRS to private preschools and family child care homes over the last 5 years. 
  • Implemented a Common Kindergarten Readiness Assessment to better understand school readiness in Sonoma County - The outcomes of quality school readiness programs are difficult to understand because Sonoma County schools don’t utilize a common tool to assess kindergarten readiness.  In order to better understand school readiness in Sonoma County, a common observation tool assessment and parent survey was implemented. The workgroup’s goal is to increase the number of schools completing the common assessment and parent survey. The workgroup plans to achieve their goals through a partnership with Road to Early Achievement and Development of Youth (READY).

New Opportunities:

  • Research/Evidence-Based Actions – Fully implement a portfolio of evidence-informed/based interventions proven to work based on data from READY, for example, expand home visiting, Pasitos, Avance and coaching programs.
  • Low-Cost/No-Cost Actions – Sustain the iRead program and better leverage library reading resources to create increased access. Create better linkages between the 0-5 and K-12 education systems to facilitate better partnerships and increase school readiness.
  • Off-the-Wall Actions – Pass a local funding measure to support a range of early learning opportunities. Keep the funding local and generate resources for better sustainability, for example, a local plastic bottle tax.  
Strategy

The strategies identified below are low cost strategies. The workgroup is starting with strategies that will easily gain traction and align efforts. Work happening in the other areas identified in the what works area of the action plan will be leveraged to expand the current action plan once the strategies below are completed.   

  • Promote reading in the community
  • Build bridge between ECE and K
Scorecard Result Container Indicator Measure Action Actual Value Target Value Tag S R I P PM A m/d/yy m/d/yyyy