Sacramento County has made strides in expanding access to high quality preschool, but even more children could benefit from the opportunity. However, a new five-year action plan for improving preschool programs in the region offers proposals aimed at not only promoting school readiness, but also closing the achievement gap.
"Our action plan calls for countywide collaboration among preschool providers, as well as business and community leaders, to serve our youngest learners," said Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David W. Gordon. "We need to make major changes in our approach to early childhood education in order to narrow the achievement gap."
The Sacramento County Preschool Plan was developed following a two-year study by leaders representing local school districts, private early child care and education providers, First 5 Sacramento, Sacramento County Local Child Care and Development Planning Council (LPC), Child Action Inc., SETA Head Start, Preschool California, public agencies, higher education, and the general community. The study was led by Superintendent Gordon with support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.
The action plan was released on February 3, during a special town hall meeting where representatives of the California Early Learning Quality Improvement System Advisory Committee met to discuss the current work to create a statewide Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS).
Some of the strategies highlighted by the Sacramento County Preschool Plan are already being piloted, implemented, and adapted, and some benchmarks have already been reached. The report addresses goals and makes the following recommendations:
- Expand partnerships among preschool providers and develop strategies for transition between preschool and kindergarten
- Promote and support family and community engagement and communication about preschool programs in Sacramento County
- Improve training and professional development for preschool providers and increase their compensation as they improve their qualifications
- Survey all existing preschool facilities to determine if they meet the needs of children and, if not, make improvements or find suitable facilities
- Expand access to preschool by maximizing use of existing funds or launching exhaustive searches for new funding
Recent research in California shows that preschool experience has an important impact on school readiness for young children. However, on a statewide basis, children who are the most likely to benefit from high-quality preschool are the least likely to be enrolled. The Sacramento County Preschool Plan addresses those issues as well as the following preschool related challenges:
- 56-percent of all preschool age children in Sacramento County have both parents, or a single parent, in the workforce and may not be able to participate in preschool unless it is connected with daycare
- More than 25-percent of children in Sacramento County enter kindergarten as dual language learners
- Only about 50-percent of the preschool teachers in Sacramento County have either a BA or AA degree
- Even the highest paid preschool teachers with BA degrees earn less than 60-percent of what elementary school teachers earn
Through a collaborative process, key stakeholders will work together to shape the quality of what young children experience today in the many preschool settings around the county. Children must have the best educational start possible and the Sacramento County Preschool Committee welcomes the participation of expanded partners in the execution of the Sacramento County Preschool Plan.