Improving school readiness in San Mateo County

What is “school readiness”?

School readiness is a measure of how prepared a child is to succeed in kindergarten across multiple developmental areas: physical, cognitive, social and emotional as well as positive attitudes toward learning. These developmental areas reflect the broad range of children’s skills and abilities that affect their ability to learn and to be successful in school. Decades of research has shown, children who enter school ready for kindergarten are more likely to read proficiently by third grade, less likely to drop out of school or enter the criminal justice system, and more likely to contribute to the labor force as adults.

Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Center for Early Learning, in partnership with First 5 San Mateo County, is working to make is easier for all families to ensure their children are ready for school. The newly formed San Mateo County Align Our Systems for School Readiness Taskforce is working to build better bridges between local health, early learning and elementary education systems to achieve school readiness.

Children begin learning the minute they are born and the care and education they receive in their first years of life are the building blocks to future success in the classroom, in the workforce and in life.

In San Mateo County approximately 8,000 children enter public school kindergarten every year.[1] Local studies conducted over the last decade indicate that approximately one-half of Kindergarteners are not ready for school, meaning they do not have the requisite academic or social-emotional skills to thrive in school.[2]

Babies and children have many needs, and they all interlock. However, public systems in place to support early childhood health and early care and learning often do not intersect or communicate.

We cannot build a foundation for children to enter school if we are not working across sectors and city limits. If we force parents into a different bureaucratic web of forms and offices to meet the needs of their children separate from their own needs, then we hurt their chances of helping their children grow up safe and healthy. If our public agencies committed to serving our most vulnerable families do not have an understanding of each other’s work, we increase the likelihood that we are duplicating services, competing for funding, and not maximizing existing funding streams.  When systems work together, we leave no family behind and children enter school ready to succeed.

With a commitment from Governor Newsom's administration to improve the lives of California children and families, combined with alignment efforts already underway across public systems throughout San Mateo County, the time is right to launch this taskforce.

The taskforce plans to meet several times between Sept. 2019 and March 2020, with two goals:

  1. Identify high-leverage opportunities and prioritize recommendations for aligning local health, early learning and elementary education systems to improve school readiness outcomes in San Mateo County

  2. Identify policy changes and funding needed to actualize taskforce recommendations

For additional information about the taskforce, contact Michelle Sioson Hyman, Deputy Director of the Center for Early Learning at Silicon Valley Community Foundation at mshyman@siliconvalleycf.org or 650.450.5497.

[1] Dataquest, California Department of Education web-based data reporting system: https://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/

[2] Applied Survey Research. “ “School Readiness and Student Achievement – A Longitudinal Analysis of Santa Clara and San Mateo County Students,” 2011; Fall 2018 universal Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (Brigance) data collected in The Big Lift school districts