FYI - September 2016


September 2016 

New Report on School Readiness in Alameda County

We’re excited to announce the release of a new report School Readiness in Alameda County. We commissioned the assessment to better understand the contexts from which children arrive at Kindergarten and the findings give new insights into how to better support families with young children. The study had teachers collect data on a participating child’s performance in the three building blocks of school readiness--Kindergarten Academics, Self-Regulation and Social Expression. In addition, the assessment collected information from parents about family environments and experiences. Thanks to this wealth of data about academic performance and social environments, we have a much more nuanced picture of what factors influence a child’s readiness for school.


What did we find?

  • 20% of students were not ready, meaning that they scored low on all three building blocks 
  • 36% were partially ready, meaning that they scored low on 1 or 2 of the building blocks
  • 44% were fully ready, meaning that they scored high on all three building blocks

From the information that we gathered from families and teachers about incoming students, the researchers identified the factors that most contribute to a child’s school readiness.

  1. The strongest predictor was child health and well-being. Those that were frequently hungry, tired or sick had readiness levels that were much lower than their peers.
  2. Children with any formal early education, whether preschool, licensed family child care, or Transitional Kindergarten, were more ready for school than their peers.
  3. Older students were more likely to be prepared for school than their younger peers. 
  4. Kids with special needs scored lower than children without any developmental concerns.
  5. Children entering school as English Learners were behind their English speaking peers. 

In addition to these predictors, the report goes into some detail about the risk factors associated with not being ready for school. These include factors that are not necessarily associated with early childhood like housing instability, living in unsafe neighborhoods and being socioeconomically disadvantaged. We’ve all heard a lot about the housing crisis in the Bay Area, but it’s still a shock to learn that almost 1/3 of families surveyed (27%) had experienced housing instability with their child and 3% had experienced homelessness. Understandably, parents expressed high levels of stress around money, work, and getting basic needs met. And many parents expressed social isolation—not having anyone to turn to when they needed help. 

What Does This Mean for First 5?

Kindergarten readiness has long term impacts on health and wellbeing, higher education attainment, and economic stability. But clearly being ready for kindergarten is not just about letters and numbers. In fact, kindergarten academics is the area where our county’s children are the strongest. Children are part of families who live in communities and there is a lot that can be done to make these communities more healthy, enriching environments. The field of early childhood is beginning to shift to a two generation approach with a focus on supporting families around workforce development, financial resources, housing stability and equity. We’re looking forward to using the wealth of information in this School Readiness Assessment to map new strategies that address family needs. “We also see this as an opportunity to reach out to new partners that can help mitigate the family risk factors and bolster the strong predictors to school readiness. This can set kids on the trajectory to succeed in school and life,” says First 5 CEO, Janis Burger.

Check out the entire report here: 2015 School Readiness Assessment

If you have any questions about the assessment, please contact: Chris Hwang, Senior Administrator, Evaluation & Technology, First 5 Alameda County, Chris.Hwang@first5alameda.org



Spotlight on a Grantee: Luna Dance


Luna Dance Institute is a nationally-acclaimed dance education organization that brings creativity and community to children through the art of dance. 

First 5 Alameda County supports Luna Dance’s Moving Parents and Children Together (MPACT) program which brings parent-child dance classes to families in the Alameda County Dependency Court, the child welfare systems and residential substance abuse programs. These classes provide families with safe, comfortable environments to play and dance together, strengthen family bonds, and provide a creative medium to learn more about child development and best practices in healthy parenting.

Back in 2010, Vanina Doce Mood, a dance teacher herself, was looking for a place to meet other parents and move around with her 14 month old daughter Paloma after she moved from San Francisco to the East Bay. She took her first MPACT class at the library and fell in love with the program. “As a new parent, I wasn’t sure what I was doing.” She describes how wonderful it was to meet other new parents and learn about Paloma’s growth. “It’s dancing, but it’s also sharing knowledge about child development. It helped me understand my kid.” 

Fast forward five years, and Vanina has gone from student to teacher. She is now an intern at Luna Dance, taking classes in early childhood development to better understand how movement can support children aged 0 – 5 years old, and sharing her newly acquired knowledge with families. “When my daughter was little, I could see her development improving and witness her range of movement expand because of Luna. With this new training, now I understand why. I am so grateful for Luna Dance.”

Read more about their wonderful programs.

First 5 Pilots Innovative Partnership at Highland

The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) chose Alameda County as one of five national sites to pilot Project DULCE (Developmental Understanding and Legal Collaboration for Everyone). In partnership with East Bay Community Law Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, First 5 is working with the Highland Hospital’s Pediatric Department to support parents with children aged 0 to six months. This innovative approach promotes healthy infant development by acknowledging the families’ social context and proactively addressing the social determinants of health.

At the center of DULCE is a friendly face, Laura Lopez, who serves as the Family Specialist. She works closely with the pediatric care team at Highland and connects families to the resources they need to reduce toxic stress their lives.

“We’re really excited about this model because it’s an opportunity to align legal support in the context of a medical home,” says First 5 CEO, Janis Burger. “We’re thrilled to be part of a national movement to get families what they need when they need it, so children have the best opportunity to thrive.”

Ms. Lopez will meet with families with infants at all routine visits to answer developmental and behavioral questions, support families that need legal advice with the East Bay Community Law Center, sign families up for home visits and connect families to regular telephone check-ins. Eventually, Ms. Lopez will provide a warm hand off to the primary care team and any other ongoing early childhood services. Stay tuned for our lessons learned in this innovative pilot. 


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Stay in touch!

Subscribe to the FYI Newsletter, Fan us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, or shoot us an email: barrie.mcclune@first5alameda.org  

Check out our Archives to read past newsletters.