2015 marked the end of our $6 million grant from the Thomas J. Long Foundation to provide scholarships for low-income children to attend high-quality preschool. The program provided scholarships for 650 children and improved child care quality for another 5,000 kids.
Even more, our early work assessing participating PMD preschools paved the way for the important work we’re leading now: the creation of comprehensive child care Quality Rating & Improvement System (QRIS) in Contra Costa County.
PMD began as a pilot in 2009, with 20 children receiving scholarships in East County. The program had a two-pronged approach: provide free scholarships for children who otherwise couldn’t access quality programs and allow parents to choose from a list of programs carefully screened for high-quality practices. Once selected, PMD preschools would get training, support and incentives to insure children continued to receive the best early care and education possible. Our QRIS system, which focuses on continuous quality improvement, is rooted in this approach.
In 2010, we were incredibly fortunate to receive a $6 million grant from the Long Foundation to expand our reach and provide quality preschool to more low-income children. We expanded to Concord and West County, growing from 40 scholarships to 150 scholarships with about 70 participating PMD providers.
Demographic information for the 650 children who received scholarships:
- The average scholarship was $12,074, and average duration of enrollment was 18 months.
- 70% of families chose a public or private center for their child, while 30% of families chose a family child care home.
- Families identifying as Hispanic or Latino made up 59% of recipients and almost half (47%) spoke Spanish as their primary language at home.
- An equal portion of families identified their child as Black/African-American or White (16%).
Did it work?
An evaluation of the program showed that participating children made gains in school readiness skills including alphabet recognition, counting to 10, following directions, expressing needs and wants, and increasing gross and fine motor skills.
PMD parent engagement activities were also successful. Most parents reported an increase in engaging their children in learning activities in the home, better links between home and school activities, and stronger partnerships with teachers.
PMD was also essential in laying the foundation for our QRIS work. Because of it, we were one of 16 counties included in California’s successful federal grant to create a local child care rating and improvement system. Our PMD providers were the first participants in QRIS, and achieved top quality ratings. We now have a QRIS system encompassing 104 sites that have been rigorously assessed and rated, including nearly all publicly-funded preschools in the county.
We thank the Long Foundation for helping us to pioneer this work, and for making a difference for thousands of children like the one featured in this quote:
“When one mother enrolled her child, she suspected that her son might have a speech delay. He had difficulty communicating with staff and the other children when he started in the classroom. After a few months of attending class, the mother couldn’t stop talking about all the great things that her son had learned and how excited he was to come home and tell the whole family what he had done and learned during the day. The mother expressed gratitude and said, ’This is the best thing that has happened to our son‘.”
Similarly, the Thomas J. Long Foundation is one of the best things that has happened to us. Thanks to the Long Foundation for taking a leap of philanthropic faith and for helping to make Contra Costa a California leader in early education quality.