¡Si, Se Puede! Mission Promise Neighborhood Working Collectively to Advance Racial Equity by Improving School Readiness for Latinx Children

Photo: Alejandro Bautista

Co-authored by:
Associate Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Liz Cortez
Early Learning Manager, Mission Promise Neighborhood Ada Freund

(Read report.)

Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is honored to be presenting at the Clear Impact “2020 Measurable Equity Conference,” which will be focused on advancing racial justice. In alignment with that topic, MPN will be presenting lessons learned around successful school-readiness efforts for Latinx and immigrant children residing in San Francisco’s Mission District. 

MPN pairs a Collective Impact framework and Results-Based Accountability (RBA) tools to identify disparities around school readiness for Latinx children, bringing together neighborhood partners and families to identify and implement strategies that best meet the unique needs of our community. 

The Promise Neighborhood model focuses on school readiness because studies show that being ready for school at kindergarten is a predictor of third-grade proficiency, plus high school and college success. In the 2018 to 2019 school year, Latinx children In the Mission District were less likely to be school ready at kindergarten. The numbers showcased the disparity: The school-readiness average for schools in the Mission District was 48% overall, with White students at 65%, Black students at 50% and Latinx students at 42%, the lowest percentage for all students. The reason is that MPN children and families face many systemic inequities, including barriers to economic mobility. One-hundred percent of young children in MPN, ages prenatal to five, qualify for local, state or federal early care and education subsidies; sixty-eight percent of these children are living at the Federal Poverty Level, qualifying them for Early Head Start and Head Start programs.

To combat this inequity, MPN Collective Impact model provides children and families with wraparound supports via a two-generation, whole-child approach. Our early care and education programs are high quality, culturally responsive and include an integrated family engagement/support component. Partner organizations have developed strong relationships and refer families across the network. MPN also emphasizes building parent leadership because moms and dads are their child’s first and most important teachers — and their best advocates. 

In addition to support services, MPN convenes early learning partners to develop a shared agenda around school readiness, with targeted and aligned strategies that have become the foundation for the development of a strong network of partners that are sharing data, creating shared measures, implementing shared strategies, taking a strengths-based approach when partnering with families in a culturally responsive and authentic way, and advocating for the needs of young children and families. MPN uses RBA tools, such as shared performance measures and turn-the-curve thinking, to ensure data and strategy discussions translate to action.

To better understand the impact of our early care and education programs — and our network of support on school readiness — MPN engaged in a longitudinal cohort study of 299 children leaving PreK in spring 2018 and entering kindergarten that fall. The study demonstrated that MPN 4-year-olds whose families also participated in MPN services had stronger scores across all developmental domains in the assessment performed by teachers. Additionally, these same children when entering kindergarten in a Mission District elementary school were 71% ready compared to the Mission District average of 48% for that year. For Latinx children, the results were even higher, at 72% readiness. 

MPN has many lessons learned around the improvement of school readiness, but following are three salient elements of this early learning work:

  1. Culture shift. MPN partners are working together to break down organizational silos,  using a Collective Impact approach and RBA tools. This has meant working differently in various ways, running the gamut from developing a shared agenda for approaching school readiness to consistently sharing data.
  2. Co-creation and capacity building. MPN partners have learned that it is most impactful to co-create with the community; in our case, with families of young children building their capacity to inform and lead this work.
  3. Continuous improvement. MPN partners are building a culture of continuous improvement that focuses on data review and strategy improvement. This requires us to constantly adapt based on community needs, such as those presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

To advance racial justice, we must all ensure that more children and families are able to benefit from these high-quality early care and education programs and MPN services. MPN partners are expanding their programs and continuing to integrate and refer across the network. Together, we are breaking down the barriers to access and supporting children and families to succeed in kindergarten … and beyond. 

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