Preschool Made a Difference

PMD2015 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.

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Coaches Help Improve Child Care Quality

Coaches_BlogNelly Orantes, Director of Tiny Toes Family Child Care in Brentwood, says her coach Francisca Hernandez is one of the best things about being in our pilot child care Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), a system to rate, continuously improve, and communicate levels of child care quality. Francisca is part of a team of coaches who support the 104 child care programs participating.

“Francisca will always say, ‘Don’t worry if you cannot do it. We will do the best that we can – you don’t have to feel pressure.’ I think Francisca is a great, great support in this program. I couldn’t do it without her.”

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Our Impact in 2015

2015 was another productive year at First 5 Contra Costa, as our funded programs continued to improve the lives of our county’s most vulnerable children and families. Take a look at some highlights accomplished by our funded programs in 2015:

Programs and activities funded by First 5 Contra Costa reached 5,100 children, 18,725 parents, and 1550 early care and education providers. 

385 expecting and new parents received home visiting services, with 6,700 visits provided. We changed our home visiting model three years ago to provide more intensive and longer services. Since then, families are now getting more than twice the number of home visits and being served twice as long.

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Quality Matters

ChildCare_BlogLast month, headlines were abuzz with results from a new study on Tennessee’s state-subsidized preschool program for poor children: Tennessee study casts doubt on preschool, Increased access to preschool does not guarantee increased achievement, and Study shows preschool gains may not last.

In the study, researchers from Vanderbilt University found that children who attended the program, which serves 18,000 low-income children, initially started kindergarten ahead on many school readiness measures. But by the time the children were in first grade, they started to score lower on standardized tests than kids who hadn’t even attended preschool.

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Contra Costa Receives Grant to Improve Preschool Quality

PreschoolLast month, the California Department of Education announced that Contra Costa County will receive an annual $1.4 million block grant to improve preschool quality for low-income children.

The block grant was included in California’s 2014-15 State Budget and provides $50 million in ongoing grants to support quality improvements in California preschools. The goal is to increase the number of low-income children attending high-quality preschools, which research shows prepares children for success in school and life.

The CDE block grant builds upon the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) – a uniform system to rate, improve, and communicate levels of child care quality – being piloted in 16 California counties, including Contra Costa. Locally, 101 child care programs are participating in the QRIS pilot.

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Meet our New Child Care Quality Improvement Coaches


Francisca Hernandez, left, and Kellee Davis provide coaching and support to Contra Costa child care programs

Child care programs participating in Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), like the one we’re piloting in Contra Costa County, make the greatest improvements when they have access to training, professional and educational support, and specialized coaching.

That’s where our new Quality Improvement Coaches Kellee Davis and Francisca Hernandez come in. As coaches, Kellee and Francisca help child care providers to be successful throughout the QRIS process, from preparing for an assessment, observation, or rating to meeting defined quality improvement goals. Ultimately, through coaching support and the technical assistance provided, QRIS participants receive higher ratings and children receive higher quality early education.

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100 Child Care Programs Join Our Quality Rating System

QRIS2One hundred child care programs in Contra Costa County are now participating in our new Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)!

Contra Costa is one of 17 counties in California implementing a pilot QRIS thanks to funding from a federal Race to the Top (RTT) Early Learning Challenge Grant. Our original portion of the grant was $1.4 million, but was increased to $2 million last year. The extra funds will be used to serve more sites and benefit additional children.

QRIS’s rate child care programs using consistent criteria and provide ongoing support to help child care programs improve their quality. QRIS’s also help families easily identify high-quality child care for their children. Continue reading

The Latest on Contra Costa’s Child Care Quality Rating System

QRIS1Our effort to create a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for child care programs in Contra Costa County is moving full speed ahead!

We just began our second year of the project and have 63 licensed child care sites participating, including private and nonprofit child care centers, publicly funded centers like Head Start, and family child care providers.

This means that Contra Costa is getting closer to having a system in place that helps parents easily identify and select high-quality child care programs for their children and that continually improves the quality of child care available.

Here’s how QRIS works: participating child care programs are rated and earn points for various elements of quality, such as teacher-child ratios, teacher qualifications, and teacher-child interactions. Sites receive a cumulative score based on their ratings, which parents can refer to during their child care searches.

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