The City of Oxnard’s Preschool Goes Mobile
The City of Oxnard has historically been home to numerous recent immigrants, primarily from Mexico and Central America. Many lack formal education, and few speak English. Families often remain uninformed about the need for early educational experiences for their children prior to compulsory school entry at age 6. Because they work long hours as day laborers in agriculture, packing houses, restaurants, motels and construction, these parents do not have the opportunity to transport their children to preschool programs.
Research shows that children from low-income families are least likely to attend preschool. Studies document that children who are enrolled in preschool at ages 3 and 4 do better in school and are more likely to become contributing members of the community. Children who are prepared and succeed in school are less likely to become casualties of the juvenile justice system.
Furthermore, Latino children are much less likely to attend preschool at age 4 than are white children (38 percent versus 58 percent, respectively). And Latino children who do attend preschool enter one year later than their white counterparts. One reason for this may be that recent immigrant and very poor families do not trust agencies or seek needed services.
More than three decades of research confirms that high-quality preschool programs can increase cognitive and language development among low-income children.
In 2001, the Oxnard School District determined that approximately 900 out of 2,000 children (45 percent) entered kindergarten each year with no preschool experience. These children began their education at a significant disadvantage compared to those students who had enjoyed one or more years of preschool education.
Bring Preschool to the Children
Since 2001, the City of Oxnard, in collaboration with Oxnard School District and First 5 of Ventura County, has addressed this significant gap in school readiness opportunities by proposing, developing, funding and implementing a wide variety of early care and educational experiences for preschool children and their primary caregivers through the mobile Preschool to You project.
By bringing Preschool to You into their neighborhoods, families can observe the activities and participate on their own terms. Preschool to You provides significant outreach to underserved areas of the community.
The greatest benefit of Preschool to You is accessibility; the project provides convenient, easy access to a high quality preschool program that overcomes the barrier caused by lack of transportation.
Portable Classroom Teaches Caregivers as Well as Children
Preschool to You is a free program centered around a “portable” classroom staffed by preschool teachers and teacher assistants. The mobile classroom visits 11 park sites each week. Using a planned preschool curriculum, the project engages children in educational and physical activities that enhance their health and development, improve their fine and gross motor skills, and expand their learning and comprehensive skills.
At each location, Preschool to You also provides parents, guardians and caregivers with information about family issues:
The Rainbow Connection informs parents about the special needs of children and helps parents access programs;
Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence addresses children’s need for a safe and healthy family environment that is free of violence and provides support for women and children with domestic violence issues;
Gull Wings Children’s Museum offers hands-on experiences for children through the mobile museum, which contains live reptiles, insects, animals, birds and other science and art topics;
Oxnard Fire and Police Services provide information to children and families on how to access emergency services; and
The Oxnard School District’s Community Literacy Project exposes children and families to early children’s books in English and Spanish.
Funding for the Preschool to You project comes from a grant the City of Oxnard received from First 5 of Ventura County’s Family Strengthening Initiative. This grant is the result of Proposition 10, the California Children and Families Act of 1998, which created a funding stream to provide early childhood development services to children prenatal to five years of age. Prop. 10 increased the tax on cigarettes and tobacco products to provide all preschool children with a comprehensive integrated system of early childhood development services.
Success of Program Is Tangible, Results Are Measured
Preschool to You has made a significant difference in preparing Oxnard’s children for kindergarten and empowering caregivers with skills to teach their children on a long-term basis.
To date, Preschool to You has served more than 600 children and their families. The weekly attendance ranges from 15 to 35 children and their families. It is estimated that an additional 150 to 200 new children will register in the next two years.
In order to track the children’s developmental progress, the Preschool to You staff was trained in the administration of the Mini-Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP), which was produced by the Oxnard School District for their preschool programs. This tool allows staff to measure the growth in children’s development in 20 different skills (social, cognitive, gross motor and fine motor skills). Of the 35 children who graduated last year, 85 percent of them fully mastered all the 20 skills in the Mini-DRDP, while 15 percent completed 80 percent of the skills in the assessment.
A cost-effective program, Preschool to You saves money by operating out of a van rather than a building so overhead costs are minimal. The Preschool to You budget shows that 93 percent of the grant funds are dedicated to personnel providing direct services; only 7 percent of the budget must go to operating costs.
Preschool to You enhances the emotional, physical and intellectual foundation of every child so they can enter school ready to learn and develop the potential to become productive, well-adjusted members of society.
The City of Mountain View won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Community Services and Economic Development category of the 2005 California Cities Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.