In its second year, an initiative to help preschools prepare students for elementary school has grown to include six new agencies and about 2,000 more young children.
The Quality Preschool Initiative (QPI) – a partnership between the San Diego County Office of Education and First 5 San Diego – started last year with 169 locations serving about 11,000 children, mostly 4-year-olds. This year, that number has grown to 202 locations and more than 13,000 children across the county.
"We are really beginning to create a culture where everybody's speaking the same language about what quality means," said Lucia Garay, executive director of SDCOE's early education programs and services.
This is the first year there are locations in Oceanside, Fallbrook and Ramona.
The initiative now stretches from Oceanside to the U.S.-Mexico border and extends east as far as Borrego Springs.
Through the effort, SDCOE employees work with teachers and administrators in preschools in high-need areas to help insure high-quality education that helps build important school-readiness and social skills. By focusing on regions with lower incomes and test scores, the goal is to raise student achievement and close the achievement gap by enhancing existing programs.
"If children have access to quality early education, they will be ready for school," said Donald Klumker, a communications specialist with the initiative.
The professional development and support doesn't cost participating preschools anything. In fact, they are reimbursed for costs associated with collecting data and implementing added requirements.
"When an agency comes on board, it's a big commitment," Klumker said.
The funding is based on a tiered rating system similar to other sites throughout the country and in 15 other counties across the state. Money for professional development and external review comes from a federal grant.
Parents who qualify for state or federal subsidies or those who live within select school boundaries can enroll children in the three-hour preschool programs without cost as long as there is space in the facilities in their area.
Photo: Students enjoy circle time recently at North County Community Services, one of the new facilities participating in the Quality Preschool Initiative.