San Diego and Seattle’s Gems from the Early Education Department’s Data Day

In September 2015, the Early Education Department (EED) hosted six California school districts to discuss their collaboration with university partners, and discuss r esearch strategy for Pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade alignment.

Laura Kohn, Executive Director of Education Synergy Alliance in San Diego, and Sonja Griffin of the Seattle Early Learning Academy shared some of their takeaways from their experience in San Francisco.


San Francisco’s explicit focus on equity was an unexpected, significant takeaway for the Seattle and San Diego leaders. Griffin took note of this cohesive and pervasive lens, “Every person who presented lead with the image and message around equity.” Kohn noticed the extension of the vision for equity into practice; “They talk about it explicitly, measure it, and hold themselves accountable for it both in internal planning and in frequent dialogs with the public.”

Kindergarten Readiness Measure: “A seemingly simple idea, yet very, very complicated.”

In the 2011-12 academic year, SFUSD’s Early Education Department partnered with Stanford University Professor Susanna Loeb and then doctoral candidate Ben York to develop a kindergarten readiness measure to understand whether students were or were not ready for kindergarten. The kindergarten readiness measure combines information on multiple aspects of child development into one holistic measure. Children are rated “Kindergarten Ready” if they meet 6 of 8 Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) benchmarks and score on average of 3 of 5 or higher on all Desired Results Development Profile (DRDP) domains.

Both Kohn and Griffin acknowledged the value of having a kindergarten readiness measure to assess the impact and progress of the pre-kindergarten grade. “We may all agree that our students need to be kindergarten ready, but we do not yet have an agreement on what K-readiness is,” reflected Griffin on the utility of the measure.

The attendees were impressed by the willingness and effort that was needed to engage in the 5-year iterative process for developing the measure, which sought to include all stakeholder voices.  Ben York, Executive Director of CEPA Labs, explained the multi-year process as necessary to ensure the measure, “always communicates the highest expectations and is most informative to kindergarten teachers and other users.”


Many of the districts attending that day walked away with lingering incredulity and resounding excitement for READY4K , a text-messaging program designed to provide parents of preschoolers with the beliefs, skills, encouragement and support necessary to enhance their home literacy practices. In particular, Kohn emphatically stated the program’s impact in an email reporting back to her department, “The kids of parents who got the READY4K! program texts arrived at Kindergarten two or three months ahead. Wow, that’s a lot of impact from a nearly free intervention!”

PreK-3 Alignment

San Francisco Unified School District is one of the few public school systems at the forefront of integrating pre-kindergarten into the K-12 structure. SFUSD made significant progress towards aligning standards from pre-kindergarten to 3 rd grade. The work to establish a kindergarten readiness indicator set a data strategy to facilitate prospective alignment. Both Griffin and Kohn cited another significant strategy from a subsequent portion of the week that involved utilization of Instructional Rounds. In this case, the kindergarten teachers observed prekindergarten classrooms, which then lead to an increased fruitful collaboration between Pre-K and K teachers. This particular instance was seen as a small, yet powerful instructional leadership move towards alignment among the various other facets that goes into cohesive, thorough PreK-3 alignment.

Inclusive, Long-Term Commitment

As our early education visitors and thought partners reflected on the SFUSD Early Education Department’s initiatives highlighted throughout the week, they recognized not only the fruits of the labor, but the multi-faceted, multi-year engagement in continuous improvement by all stakeholders that allowed and supports the successful endeavors at SFUSD. Griffin expressed this fact with appreciation, “All stakeholders, including policy makers and funders are in-sync. They are all engaged in the thoughtful consideration of designing something that is very comprehensive and meets the individual needs of children and their families. All partners are in the journey for the long haul. They understand that this is not an overnight fix.”




We asked visiting districts to share interesting takeaways from the highlighted research through a Data Walk. See there takeaways below.

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