Enhancing the Visibility of Early Learning in School Districts

Download the Toolkit in PDF format

Why was this toolkit created?

This toolkit was developed in response to the 2021 DIAL EE report, A Survey of ECE Visibility and Alignment in California School Districts. We tried to develop practical tools for the field with feedback from DIAL EE fellows about what will be helpful to them and their districts as they increase visibility of ECE within their districts.

Click here to read about the visibility data points from fall 2020.

How does early education fit into your district’s vision and mission?

Here are some categories to think about as you answer these questions and potential areas to improve.

  Look at your school
  district’s website

Ask yourself the following questions:

Does the Superintendent’s Message or “About Us” page mention early education? What is mentioned in the superintendent’s message sets the tone for the district. Does this message mention the school district’s youngest learners, most notably Preschool and TK?

Examples

Is early education included on the website? If a family is looking for more information about CSPP or other early education opportunities, can it be found? There is no “one way” to do this, some districts include early learning information under the “schools,” “programs” or “departments” tab, and others have a separate tab or link for “State Preschool” or “Early Learning.”

Examples of being listed on department tab

Examples of Child Development being listed on schools tab

Examples of being listed in multiple prominent places: schools tab, programs tab, registration page, instructional services department

Is early education listed in several places (different pages) on the website? Is early education considered a stand alone program or one that is fully integrated within the school district? One way to reflect P-12 alignment and integration is to mention early education or preschool in several places on the website to show the integration.

Examples

Does early education look similar to K-12 pages/descriptions? In order to reflect the continuity and alignment of early learning within the school district, there should be a similar “feel” or look to the academic subjects and grades.

Examples

Does the website support the diversity of the district’s population? When we talk about diversity, we mean culture, ethnicity, and language. Things to look for include, are there translations (or links to be able to translate) general school information in the languages the families in the community speak? Do the images on the website reflect the many cultures and ethnicities of the students who attend the school?

Does the website include preschool program information? To support families or others who are interested in learning more about the early education program, the following information is helpful:

  • Program philosophy or statement
  • Locations & times; part- or full-day options
  • Videos/photos
  • Resources for parents (e.g., educational, support for curriculum extension at home, what to expect developmentally)
  • Contact for early education

Examples of videos/photos

Examples of resources for parents

Does the website identify community partners that support early education? Listing community partners demonstrates to families and others how early education is supported by the community, which may provide information about additional resources for children and families.

Examples

Resources

Early education included in superintendent’s message or “about us” page

Website organization – where to find preschool, child development, early education, etc.

Listed on department tab

Child Development listed on schools tab

Listed in multiple prominent places: schools tab, programs tab, registration page, instructional services department

Preschool, child development, early education, etc. listed in multiple places and easy to locate

Preschool program information is clear and well designed

Videos/photos

Parent resources, including handbook

Highlights of community partners that support early education

  Look at your district’s
  organizational chart

Consider the following questions:

Does your district’s organization chart include early education? Whether early education is clearly represented on the district’s organization chart speaks to the integration within the district as well as the value placed on early learning as part of the overall district.

Examples

Where does early education sit within the district? The role and value of early education in the overall continuum of learning within a district can be demonstrated by where early education “sits” within the structure of the district. For example, whether early learning is a department or is part of another department, and if so, which one.

Examples

What is the title and role of the person who is in charge of early education? The title and role of the early education leader varies across districts, most commonly director, supervisor, coordinator, manager, or equivalents. Additionally, whether this position is part of the superintendent’s cabinet speaks to how the individual accesses information, has a part in decision-making, and their ability to influence district leadership.

What are the responsibilities of the early education lead? There is also variance in the responsibilities of the early education lead across districts. They may oversee only preschool or may also oversee transitional kindergarten, special education preschool, before and after school programs, PK-3 literacy programs, etc. There is no “right” way to identify the responsibilities, but depending on the size of the district and its programs, there may be pros and/or cons, in terms of capacity and time to focus on quality as well as ability to align across programs.

How is the early education lead position funded? How the position is funded and what the resulting implications are should be considered. Funding through annual (e.g., CSPP) contracts may be unstable or funding jointly through multiple program contracts may require the individual to be spread thinly across responsibility areas. Whether a district used LCFF or other available funds may speak to the value of early learning within the district.

References

  Read your district’s
  vision statement

See how early education is included:

What is the vision for the school district, and does it include early education? For example, is your district referred to as a TK/K-12 district or a P-12 district? Is early learning explicitly mentioned as an integral component of the district’s overall learning continuum? These questions lead to whether early learning is seen as an integrated start for the district or whether it is seen as a separate program.

Examples

Do district program areas start with early education? District programs like literacy may be articulated and aligned to start in early education. Whether or not this is the case in your district and how it is articulated speaks to the alignment and integration of early education and TK/K-12 systems. Similarly, information about supports for preschoolers, such as an at home learning device or meals may or may not be aligned with the overall district organization structure. Again, this speaks to how early education is integrated into the district or whether it functions as a stand-alone program.

Examples

District listed as P-8/p-12

Learning and Development Department lists “Curriculum & Instructional Programs, PK-12”

Resources

Mission/vision statements that include early education

District listed as P-8/P-12

Learning and Development Department lists “Curriculum & Instructional Programs, PK-12”

  Consider what and
  how information is
  available to families to
  help them know what
  services are available
  and how best to
  support their students,
  including preschoolers?

Consider the following questions:

Is enrollment/registration information readily available? Is the information available (and downloadable) online as well as offline? Is the process streamlined to include preschool (CSPP program), TK, and kindergarten and support understanding of this continuum? Is preschool enrollment/registration information available at both the early learning section of the website as well as the general registration section for the district? Is information available in the languages spoken by families in the community?

Examples

Preschool enrollment link included with TK and K on general enrollment page:

Early Childhood Education included in district enrollment guide

How is social media used to communicate with families, and does it include early education? Social media can be used to connect with families and other stakeholders about important information and events as well as how early education is valued and integrated within a district.

Examples

Is there a family handbook specifically for early education or does the K-12 handbook include early education? Whether or not early education is included in the K-12 handbook, it is an opportunity to reference early education and point families in the right direction for more information. If the handbook is separate for early education, is it branded and aligned to the rest of the district?

Examples

Are there flyers or other outreach materials about early education? The district’s value and integration of early education can be communicated through outreach and promotional information. Consider whether early education outreach materials are branded and aligned to the district (e.g., whether they have the same “feel” and professional image). Are they available in the languages of families in the community?

Examples

Preschool enrollment link included with TK and K on general enrollment page:

Early Childhood Education included in district enrollment guide

Enrollment flyer with professional image

Flyers available in multiple languages

How do you use this toolkit?

After reviewing this toolkit, there are several ways you can take action to increase the visibility of, as well as learn more about, early education within your school district.

Share with your school board. Do your briefings with your school board include topics related to early learning? Does this occur at each meeting? Quarterly? Annually?

Form a committee within your school district. This committee should not only include the superintendent, but also preschool and kindergarten teachers, the person who oversees CSPP and other early learning programs, select cabinet members, curriculum specialists, family advocates, and other relevant individuals, as identified. This toolkit may help guide the discussion or plan next steps for this group to take.

Collect and report data about preschool. How many children are ready for kindergarten when they leave preschool? When looking at 3rd grade assessments, do children with preschool experience do better?

How to learn more about early learning within your district:

  • Visit a preschool classroom.
  • Get to know the Head Start programs or preschools in your district’s community.
  • Have a listening meeting with the district’s preschool teachers.

Help us understand what we could do better with this toolkit by giving us some feedback.

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