According to Oregon Kindergarten Assessment (OKA) data released this month, students entering kindergarten have essentially the same level of early literacy, math, and interpersonal skills as their prior year counterparts. The results of the assessment, meant to provide a high-level snapshot of students’ school readiness skills, have remained largely unchanged since the OKA was introduced in 2013.
That’s not surprising, given that Oregon’s efforts to broaden access to high quality care and education have been largely incremental.
“We simply aren’t reaching enough kids through our early care and education programs to move the needle significantly,” says Marina Merrill, director of research and strategy at Children’s Institute. Merrill notes that funding from Preschool Promise, a publicly funded preschool program that began in 2016 has added just 1,300 additional preschool slots to date—reaching just a fraction of the children who are income-eligible for the program. In 2019, just 38 percent of income eligible children attended publicly funded preschool, compared to 79 percent of students in K-12 schools. At those levels, it’s hard to see gains reflected on a statewide assessment like the OKA, which covers more than 40,000 students.
With passage of the Student Success Act, Oregon is now preparing to infuse schools with the biggest education funding increase it has seen in a generation. More than 20 percent of $1 billion in new funding will be directed towards early learning efforts.
As districts, early learning hubs, and parents work to ensure that leads to improved outcomes for kids, CI and others are emphatic about the need to tie funding choices to effective strategies and approaches that can deliver strong and lasting impacts for students.
It may also be useful for school and district leaders to take a closer look at evidence-based strategies and school communities who are showing progress in closing opportunity gaps that early childhood experts know begin at birth. Here’s CI’s past coverage worth a review:
The LEAP program at Cherry Park Elementary in Southeast Portland is one of a handful of inclusive preschool programs in Oregon. Originally designed to support children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the evidence-based model has been so effective that Principal Kate Barker has expanded it to upper grade levels.
Rooted at the intersection of research and educational equity, the SEAL program is an English learner-focused approach to education. The model includes curriculum, professional development, and technical assistance so that schools and teachers can better meet the needs of English language learners.
How community-led initiatives have helped improve outcomes for children and families from the ground up in this largely low-income, rural community.
For more resources on how Student Success Act funds can be leveraged for maximum impact, see our SSA Implementation page.