The Big Lift shows progress in narrowing opportunity gap in early education

The Big Lift shows progress in narrowing opportunity gap in early education

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Children participating in the Big Lift early literacy initiative at San Mateo County preschools in the 2017-18 school year were 17-percentage points more kindergarten-ready than demographically similar peers who did not attend preschool, as measured by the Brigance readiness assessment, a recent study by The Rand Company found.

And children with two years of participation at a Big lift preschool, which targets county school districts with below-average third-grade reading levels, were more kindergarten-ready than those who attended only one year, the nonprofit research organization’s study showed.

Today, the San Mateo County Office of Education touted the results of the study, which is part of a multi-phase evaluation of The Big Lift program by the Rand Corp. See the results from its latest study here.

The Big Lift is a preschool to third grade literacy program in San Mateo County launched in 2012 by the County of San Mateo, the San Mateo County Office of Education, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Funded through contributions by hundreds of organizations, the program operates in 96 preschool classrooms serving 2,000 children annually in seven school districts, beginning in the Redwood City School District in 2016. It also serves 1,200 incoming kindergartners through second graders annually through its Inspiring Summers program, and thousands more through attendance messaging efforts. 

“The initiative aims to boost third grade reading proficiency through a set of four coordinated strategies, called pillars,” the county’s office of education states. “1) High-Quality Preschool; 2) Summer Learning; 3) School Attendance; and 4) Family Engagement.”

As Big Lift classes from just two school years have been evaluated thus far, the study has yet to determine whether its participants, who typically come from disadvantaged families, are on par with students who attended other, mostly private preschools. While results from the 2016-17 class revealed Big Lift preschoolers were equally likely to be kindergarten-ready than non-Big Lift preschoolers, the 2017-2018 Big Lift class of preschoolers scored lower, on average by four points, on the Brigance, than the non-Big Lift preschoolers, the study showed.

“Subsequent annual descriptive analyses will make it possible for RAND researchers to track these and other trends as they evolve and emerge over time and across multiple kindergarten classes,” the RAND Corp. states.

But the RAND study says the early results are promising.

“They suggest that Big Lift preschool can promote not only kindergarten readiness but also continued success throughout a child’s early school career,” the study authors said. “Although our analyses do not allow us to test the causal impact of Big Lift preschool on children, they nonetheless provide insight into how children who attended Big Lift preschool fared compared with demographically similar peers.”

With more than 70-percent of Big Lift preschoolers coming from homes with annual incomes of $50,000 or less, results indicate the initiative may be working to close the education opportunity gap in the county.

 “This report continues to show us that access to quality preschool, like that provided by The Big Lift, is critical to a student’s success later in school,” San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee said in a statement. “The gaps we see in student outcomes start before kindergarten, so it is essential that we focus on quality programs for our youngest learners.”

Photo from The Big Lift’s Facebook page.

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