We’ve analyzed the data, interviewed top education leaders, researched best practices, and developed an evidence-based plan. We drew heavily on the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s well-substantiated framework for supporting reading by 3rd grade, which identifies four areas where families and communities can better support children and teachers: (1) sending kids to kindergarten who are ready to learn, (2) making sure they attend school regularly, (3) supporting learning at home, and (4) providing enriching summer experiences so they don’t fall behind. We also reviewed similar plans for 20 cities around the country to inform our own.
And it comes down to this: we need to provide two years of quality preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds in San Mateo County, so every child starts kindergarten ready for school. We also need to do more to help sustain children’s progress as they transition into elementary school and up until third grade. That means providing summer learning programs, so kids don’t lose so much ground when they’re out of school, and solutions that effectively address family engagement and chronic absence.
Our goal is to achieve a big lift in San Mateo County’s educational outcomes by going from 50% of our children reading proficiently in 3rd grade to 80%. Long-term, of course, we want all kids to clear that bar. We know it’s ambitious and will take years to accomplish. We also know this county has what it takes to make it happen.
A Staged Approach
From early 2012 through 2014, we gathered knowledge, built an extraordinary collaborative and developed an evidence-based plan to improve reading by 3rd grade. We also raised $30 million in initial funding -- from the Social Innovation Fund (a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service), County of San Mateo Measure A funds, national and local foundations, businesses, and other organizations.
We’re now in the Proof-of-Concept phase and, after a competitive process, have implemented the plan in four launch communities: Cabrillo Unified School District, La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District, Jefferson Elementary School District, and South San Francisco Unified School District. We are closely tracking and reporting the results, further developing and refining our plan as we go, and continuing to generate awareness and build support for the effort.
By achieving strong results and securing additional funding, we hope to expand access to high-quality and connected learning experiences from preschool to third grade to even more children in our county, eventually accommodating all of them.