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Preschool and Family Support Can Help Close Achievement Gap in Silicon Valley, New Study Says
Report on school readiness finds high-quality preschool an important tool to ensure kindergarteners are prepared to succeed

New reports on school readiness in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties found that children, especially those at-risk, who had attended high-quality preschool and whose parents received information about school readiness were better prepared for school. These findings reiterate previous local studies that show that high-quality preschool and supports for families can help close the achievement gap by getting kids ready to learn during their most formative years. Education leaders from around the region gathered in Mountain View today for the release of the report and to discuss how school districts and communities can work with early educators to bridge the gap between pre-K and early elementary.

The San Mateo and Santa Clara reports, which measured the school readiness skills of more than 1,400 entering kindergarteners through observations and parent and teachers surveys, were commissioned by Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Santa Clara County Partnership for School Readiness. Major funders included the Morgan Family Foundation and First 5 San Mateo County, FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, Bella Vista Foundation and Applied Materials.

Eighty-three percent of children entering school in San Mateo County in 2008 and 74 percent of entering kindergarteners in Santa Clara County had attended preschool, the report found. However, more must be done to improve access: Latino children and those from low-income families were 20 percent less likely to attend preschool than their Caucasian or higher-income peers.

"The high rate of preschool attendance in San Mateo County is very good news, but there is more work to be done," said Dr. Jean Holbrook, San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools. "The achievement gap begins before children even enter kindergarten and we need to make sure all children have access to a high-quality preschool program that equips them for future academic success."

The readiness report comes after last month's release of the state Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test results, which indicated that Silicon Valley has a persistent achievement gap between white and Asian students and Latino and black students. Prior research has found that high-quality preschool can help narrow achievement gaps. The San Mateo County report and a separate study that focused on children in Redwood City found that high-quality preschool can help level the playing field, so that all children start school prepared to succeed, regardless of their background and risk factors.

"Every child deserves a strong start in life that enables them to fulfill their potential," says State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. "Investing in our young children is an investment in Silicon Valley's - and our state's - future."

Most San Mateo County and Santa Clara County children starting school in 2008 arrived healthy, with access to a pediatrician and dentist, and many had received a developmental screening, according to the report; however, lower income families earning less than $53,000 were much less likely than families earning over $85,000 to have a regular medical home (95% vs. 45%).

Additionally, school readiness in both counties has remained fairly stable since 2005, even though the population of children who typically score lower in school readiness has grown.

The report also identifies actions the San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties can take to support school readiness, such as: ensuring children's basic health needs are met; providing parenting and support services to families; improving access to high-quality preschool; providing parents with information about school readiness and the transition to kindergarten; expanding programs that support reading; and encouraging more reading at home.

For more information and complete studies from San Mateo County, Redwood City, and Santa Clara County, please visit: http://www.appliedsurveyresearch.org/

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