More youngsters attend preschool 

Preschool enrollment in The City has increased, which means more children are prepared for kindergarten, according to a new study.

Much of the increase is due to children having greater access to a quality preschool. That’s made possible by First 5 San Francisco’s Preschool for All, which is funded through 2004’s Proposition H.

Preschool For All is an initiative to offer preschool to all children regardless of a family’s income. Though it started in the Mission, Visitation Valley, Bayview and Excelsior neighborhoods, it’s now available to children citywide, according to
Gloria Corral, deputy director of First 5. The expansion is part of the organization’s effort to expand via outreach, awareness and access.

“This is a volunteer program, it’s not mandatory,” Corral said. “But, we want to make sure parents know they have the opportunity to choose a high-quality program.”

According to the study, 9 percent more children are taking advantage of preschool. Corral said an estimated 3,100 children were enrolled in one of 550 centers citywide during the 2009-10 school year.

More children entering kindergarten are ready for the student environment — they can distinguish shapes and colors, and even self-regulate behavior, Corral said.

“It means they can take turns,” Corral said. “They can sit, pay attention and negotiate with a peer.”

Roughly 750 students were tested in four focus areas known as the basic building blocks, according to Penny Huang, senior research analyst with Applied Survey Research of San Jose.

Each child is given a score from one through four, with four being proficient, on each of the 24 test items.

Huang said the increase in average readiness for school based on those building blocks rose from 3.26 points in 2007 to 3.31 points in 2009. The increase shows that more students are ready when they go to school.

“More kids have the basic skills necessary to be ready to stay focused, pay attention and self-govern,” Huang said. “We’re moving in the right direction.”

According to San Francisco schools Superintendent Carlos Garcia, the more kids that participate in preschool the more likely they are to master all standards.

“The achievement gap is really an opportunity gap, and it starts way before students even arrive at kindergarten,” he said in a statement. “We are making sure students in our preschools are receiving quality instruction and there is smooth transition from preschool to kindergarten.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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