First 5 San Diego Improves Access to High-Quality Preschool

Click here to view the full First 5 San Diego Preschool for All (PFA) Demonstration Project:  Five-Year Summative Report

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — (September 13, 2011) – More than 18,000 children in San Diego County received a high-quality early childhood education over the last five years due to the First 5 Commission of San Diego’s efforts to close the preschool achievement gap in San Diego County, according to the First 5 San Diego Preschool for All (PFA) Demonstration Project: Five-Year Summative Report.

The Commission dedicated $30 million to fund the five-year PFA project to test out methods and models to meet both the Commission’s vision of preschool as well as to inform the future implementation of universal access to quality preschool countywide.

“Investing in preschool gives great returns,” said San Diego County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, Chairwoman of the First 5 Commission of San Diego. “Research shows that children who have access to high-quality preschool programs are more likely to succeed in grades K-12, graduate from high school and attend college, and essentially be better contributing citizens to our community.”

The Commission contracted with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) to implement the PFA Demonstration Project. The current program provides free quality half-day preschool, regardless of income, in 11 communities throughout the County. The targeted communities were chosen based on low Academic Performance Index (API) scores, include Borrego Springs, Chula Vista, El Cajon, Escondido, Lemon Grove, Mountain Empire, National City, San Ysidro, South Bay, Valley Center/Pauma, and Vista.

First 5 San Diego developed a model designed to increase access to high-quality preschool in San Diego County, encourage the active involvement of family and parents, and encourage workforce and professional development for preschool staff. By the end of the project, PFA grew from 6 to 11 communities, from 16 providers to 41 providers, the number of children served increased to 308%, parents were provided expanded opportunities to be involved in their child’s preschool experience, and preschool staff earned more than 500 college degrees. The Preschool for All program has also increased access to Healthy Development Services for children in San Diego County. In the last year over 80% of PFA children received a developmental screening to ensure they are developing the skills they need for a healthy transition to kindergarten.

“Investing in the healthy development of young children is at the core of all First 5 San Diego’s programs and services,” said Nick Macchione, Director of the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency and First 5 San Diego Commissioner. “This focus supports the County’s Live Well, San Diego! strategy of building better health for all of San Diego County residents, including our very youngest.”

Findings from the report, as well as community input, best practices, and connecting efforts such as Live Well, San Diego!, will be used to develop and implement a First 5 San Diego Quality Preschool Initiative. The Commission has approved funding of $47.1 million for the future initiative over three years and is targeted to begin in July 2012.

“First 5 San Diego’s PFA program has established a quality model for early learning that ensures our vision that all children enter Kindergarten ready to learn and succeed,” said Barbara Jiménez, Executive Director of First 5 San Diego.