Michael Collier/EdSource

Children sing at event marking efforts to boost student reading proficiency in San Mateo County.

A California county in the heart of Silicon Valley on Wednesday launched an ambitious plan to better prepare preschool-aged students for reading so that they can achieve proficiency by 3rd grade.

In San Mateo County, home to technology company heavyweights such as Oracle and Genentech, 43 percent of 3rd-graders are falling behind in reading, according to standardized test scores. Many of those students are from low-income families that are not part of the tech boom and who often can’t afford to send their children to preschool programs.

Falling behind in reading at an early age is significant because research shows that children who read significantly below grade level by 3rd grade will continue to struggle in school and are at higher risk of dropping out later.

To help close that gap, county leaders launched a campaign – dubbed “The Big Lift” – that officials said will substantially expand preschool programs and curb chronic absenteeism among young students by sending parents text messages that reinforce the importance of their children’s classroom attendance. The plan also includes the creation of “inspiring” educational programs during the summer months that aim to maintain academic gains from preschool through the early grades.

Officials said the campaign, which has the collaborative support of 200 organizations, is among the first in the nation to specifically focus on those goals.

The project is being funded by a voter-approved, half-cent increase in the county’s sales tax rate, private money and federal grants, for a total so far of $28 million. But it will need $50 million a year to sustain all programs at full capacity, county officials said.

On Wednesday, groups involved in the campaign announced that the first grants – totaling $4.3 million – will go to four school districts in the county: Cabrillo Unified in Half Moon Bay, the Jefferson Elementary district in Daly City, South San Francisco Unified and La Honda-Pescadero Unified.

Anne Campbell, superintendent of the San Mateo County Office of Education, said the project began two years ago and relies on the collaboration between county government officials and those from the county’s 23 school districts.

“The local communities let us know what they needed,” Campbell said. Improving reading proficiency among young students is imperative, she added, particularly given that 65 percent of Latino, African-American and Pacific Islander students are not reading proficiently by 3rd grade, according to standardized test scores.

Without improving its students’ reading skills, San Mateo County is “losing the children we need to help us move forward in the knowledge economy,” Campbell said.

Under the plan, school districts will partner with preschools – private and public – and community-based agencies to work toward the goal of ensuring 80 percent of 3rd-graders countywide are reading proficiently.

Elizabeth Schuck, associate superintendent of Cabrillo Unified, said the Half Moon Bay community is home to wealthy tech executives and low-paid migrant workers, many with children who have not attended preschool programs. The county’s grant will make it possible for those children, and other children in the county, to receive two years of preschool.

The grants announced Wednesday will help the Jefferson Elementary district by creating 40 new preschool slots, Superintendent Bernie Vidales said. South San Francisco City Manager Mike Futrell said Genentech, which is based in the city, plans to build a 6,000-square-foot science lab for South San Francisco Unified students.

Key partners in San Mateo County’s “The Big Lift” campaign include First 5 San Mateo County, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, and the RAND Corporation.


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  1. Parents News Opinion 10 months ago10 months ago

    Ask parents and parents will come up with constructive suggestions. We parents like thi on line program called RAZ KIDS. It costs $$$$ , but not that much and some schools give it out for free. I know or think I know why RAZ KIDS is good. 1. No bad breath, no negative interactions between students and teachers. 2. Use of reading where words light up when properly pronounced by RAZ KIDS audio reader. Too many teachers … Read More

    Ask parents and parents will come up with constructive suggestions.

    We parents like thi on line program called RAZ KIDS. It costs $$$$ , but not that much and some schools give it out for free.

    I know or think I know why RAZ KIDS is good.

    1. No bad breath, no negative interactions between students and teachers.

    2. Use of reading where words light up when properly pronounced by RAZ KIDS audio reader. Too many teachers have harsh accents and read with the accent, used to be no hire for any kindergarten teacher or first grade teacher if the could not get rid of their accent, but not the case in year 2015-2016.

    Parents who do not speak English well cannot read aloud English children books at home, so lost reinforcement of reading skills for majority of all second language English learners that this article is addressing.

    In silicon Valley, lots of poor people, a big problem, to verify just ask food give away non profits.

    3. There is a mis perception in thinking by school district leaders and some teachers that low income low reading level children from K,1,2,3 grade do not have computers at home, often they do, so …

    This parent, unlike school admin. or teachers, or reporters gives the answer to ensuring all k,1,2,3 grade children read well.

    Mandate preschool for all children

    Mandate full day kindergarten at all schools and especially all title one schools

    Mandate freebRAZ KIDS to all children so they can read and hear proper English read aloud with proper pronunciation and …

    We solve the issue written by the wonderful reporter Ms Collier and the wonderful resource for all interested in helping Education get better, called EdSource.

    thanks EdSource,

    Parent Opinion News

    And remember those paid with salaries from school district budgets, start involving parents in meaningful ways to all decision making avenues of change and stop being miopic.

  2. CarolineSF 12 months ago12 months ago

    Correlation or causation? It’s a distinction that the press (MSM and specialty both) chronically fails to grasp.

    “Falling behind in reading at an early age is significant because research shows that children who read significantly below grade level by 3rd grade will continue to struggle in school and are at higher risk of dropping out later.”

    Replies

    • CarolineSF 12 months ago12 months ago

      …or I should say “neglects to make.”

  3. Don 1 year ago1 year ago

    What constitutes being "behind" is a matter of conjecture. There's no general agreement in the field of cognitive development that children should be reading by kindergarten, though no one disagrees that children should be read to in preschool or at home. In addition, at present it is estimated 11-12% of children have ADHD and learn to read later than on average. My experience as a parent with an ADHD child is that the vast … Read More

    What constitutes being “behind” is a matter of conjecture. There’s no general agreement in the field of cognitive development that children should be reading by kindergarten, though no one disagrees that children should be read to in preschool or at home.

    In addition, at present it is estimated 11-12% of children have ADHD and learn to read later than on average. My experience as a parent with an ADHD child is that the vast majority of teachers demonstrate a poor understanding of ADHD and the learning issues that stem from the disorder. It doesn’t make sense to attribute 3rd grade reading statistics to higher dropout rates when we don’t acknowledge the fact that a significant portion of that reading problem is mental health/ learning disability related.

    Replies

    • Tom 1 year ago1 year ago

      Right Don, and there is also a largely under appreciated problem with dyslexia. There learning problems need to be identified early, and these kids need intervention! Not enough money from anywhere from any group to do this right now. MORE teachers I say, NOT out of line increases in compensation.

  4. TTanin 1 year ago1 year ago

    Why is it that 65% of black, Latino, and pacific Islander students can’t read proficiently but white and Asian students can? what is it about the the culture of the underachievers that causes that?

    Replies

    • Tom 1 year ago1 year ago

      I can assure you it is not just a race or income problem. We have a very homogeneous, Caucasian student population at our K-5 school and testing (when we had it) was showing 15-20% of third graders were reading below grade level! Same issue on math. We had to use parent and grant funds to get reading help for these kids, mostly 1st and 2nd graders, and it has helped tremendously. … Read More

      I can assure you it is not just a race or income problem. We have a very homogeneous, Caucasian student population at our K-5 school and testing (when we had it) was showing 15-20% of third graders were reading below grade level! Same issue on math. We had to use parent and grant funds to get reading help for these kids, mostly 1st and 2nd graders, and it has helped tremendously.

      The various School Districts just don’t have the money to get extra instruction to the kids that need it, and only the schools with parents that are able to donate the money can make up the difference. Blame large class sizes and not enough targeted instruction to the kids that need it.

      I disagree with the article where it says more TK classes are needed – kids don’t even begin to learn to read until kindergarten! I wish the reporter would not just parrot this stuff without some more evenly balanced discussion. The TK push s a union based effort to hire more teachers, and union members paying $1,000/yr in dues, and the money is better used in the 1-3rd grades where the kids are older and better able to learn to read. Stop blaming the parents I say!

      • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

        Tom:

        You said: “The various School Districts just don’t have the money to get extra instruction to the kids that need it, and only the schools with parents that are able to donate the money can make up the difference.”

        Then it is all a “race or income” problem after all. Isn’t it?

        • Tom 1 year ago1 year ago

          Oh hi Gary, you’re are baaacccckkkkk. Right now, in our history, in this area of California, most of the high earners are Caucasian, sure. Things are changing though market forces without the confiscation of wealth and redistribution by government. In our area, the Asians (Indian and Chinese) are being hired for tech and biotech because of their better education. Gee, wonder why?

    • Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

      TTanin: Check out the relative poverty rates between Hispanic/Blacks and White Asian populations. The "difference" is a societal acceptance of high poverty with few community, wage, health, and housing supports for Hispanic/Black minority children as long as those same support systems are not denied to Whites. Asians, of course, are minority but of all ethnic groups their levels of family wealth are the highest. Higher then Whites. Asians are recognized as the wealthiest immigrant groups to … Read More

      TTanin:

      Check out the relative poverty rates between Hispanic/Blacks and White Asian populations. The “difference” is a societal acceptance of high poverty with few community, wage, health, and housing supports for Hispanic/Black minority children as long as those same support systems are not denied to Whites.

      Asians, of course, are minority but of all ethnic groups their levels of family wealth are the highest. Higher then Whites. Asians are recognized as the wealthiest immigrant groups to ever enter the US. There are sub-categories of the Asian population that suffer like poverty rates as other minorities and their measured academic achievement is the same as those other minorities: Low.

      Another factor related to Asians: Those whose incomes seem low in this country were quite high in their native countries. Though they may struggle with issues related to low incomes they brought what we would call “middle-class values for education” with them when they arrived in the US.

      In this country the “culture” of under/over achievement is highly dependent on what you can afford. There is no mystery here.

      • Tom 1 year ago1 year ago

        I cannot understand what the heck you are trying to say Gary. Plain english please, I went to public schools. Asians get ahead by working their butts off, btw, has nothing to do with the implied racism you mention.

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