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This week CCSESA puts the spotlight on Educare California at Silicon Valley, a collaborative program that's bringing new early learning opportunities to the children of Santa Clara County.
Educare California at Silicon Valley (ECSV) is partnering with the Santa Clara County Office of Education to bring early learning opportunities to 168 children in Santa Clara County.
 
ECSV features 12 state-of-the-art classrooms staffed by a team of three teachers, including a lead teacher with a bachelor’s or master’s degree and an early learning background.
 
Opened in September 2015 in a brand new 28,000-square-foot facility, ECSV was formed by a public-private partnership that includes the Santa Clara County Office of Education, First 5 Santa Clara County, First 5 California, East Side Union High School District, Franklin-McKinley School District, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Silicon Valley Leadership Group and more than two dozen other foundations and public institutions.
In addition to highly qualified teachers, the hallmarks of Educare are intentional instruction, continuity of care, parent involvement and effective professional development.
 
ECSV’s focus on intentional instruction means it offers a full-day, year-round program that focuses on literacy, social-emotional development, numeracy and the arts for children up to age five.
 
“We use the best evidence-based strategies to prepare young children who have risk factors,” said ECSV Director Dr. Dianna Ballesteros. “We look at what the research and science is telling us about how to use data to help children from high risk communities.”
 
Ballesteros said ECSV’s interdisciplinary approach means that “we’re not just teaching. We are a community of practice that understands that our mission is always the child, in the context of the family. We are vibrant in our implementation so our wider community can be vibrant.”
 
Smaller class sizes and continuity of care are two more research-based practices that Educare employs to foster robust learning environments. Children stay with the same teacher and group of peers for three years.
 
School is open every weekday, 243 days a year, from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., which not only provides more instructional time for children, but also helps out parents who work or are attending school.
 
Three engagement specialists work with families and provide services including interpreting results of developmental screening tests. ECSV provides an annual evidence-based assessment that all parents complete on behalf of their children.
 
Health screenings make sure that any problems a child might be experiencing are caught early.
 
ECSV is in the process of implementing two additional elements of the Educare model: a teacher professional development institute and a career academy. In partnership with East Side Union High School District and local community colleges, the career academy will offer core classes in early childhood education to high school students.
 
ECSV’s desire to build a vibrant community is evident in the lobby atrium of the facility, which features branches of the Children’s Museum of San Jose and the San Jose Public library, as well as a family resource center.
 
Community meeting rooms are used to hold classes for parents on topics such as research-based curriculum and effective discipline. Neighborhood families who aren’t part of Educare can attend parent trainings, while their children participate in pre-literacy and art programs. All services are offered in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, Ballesteros said.
ECSV is the 21st and newest facility in the Educare network of early learning schools across the country designed for low-income children and their families.
 
The Educare model grew out of research showing the importance of quality early education to improving K-12 student outcomes.
 
Studies show that the learning gap for low-income children can begin as early as nine months of age. Early language skills, as well as social-emotional development and school readiness indicators, are strong predictors for school success.
 
“Changing the first five years changes everything,” says a statement on the ECSV website. “We know what works to close the achievement gap: high quality, intensive education interventions in early childhood delivered by skilled, trained teachers.”
Educare schools take evaluating student outcomes seriously. Ballesteros said ECSV’s lead local evaluator is the Education Development Center’s Dr. Gary Resnick, a nationally recognized expert in child development and program evaluation.  Dr. Resnick attends ECSV’s monthly parent meetings and monthly teacher professional development meetings.
 
Nationally renowned researchers from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have been tracking program quality and child and family outcomes at all Educare schools.  ECSV’s local evaluator partner works closely with FPG and will lead the longitudinal study of ECSV’s participation that begins 2016-17, ECSV’s second year.
 
“We hold the belief that we’re a program in continuous improvement,” Ballesteros said. “We’re always asking, ‘What’s next? What more can we do?’”
 
Independent studies of other Educare programs going back to 2005 show that children who start Educare between birth and age two scored near national averages on measures of school readiness, even when controlling for risk factors.
 
The goal of ECSV is to improve the quality of care and instruction at sites beyond its own walls, including K-12 schools. By starting with their youngest children, educators hope to level the playing field by helping children enter kindergarten with the skills they need to succeed.
 
Jon R. Gundry, Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools, said, “We know that the best strategy for addressing the achievement gap is to prevent the gap from ever forming, and the way to do that is through high quality early learning.”
 
Gundry said ECSV is an example “of what is possible when early education is done well and properly funded.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION:


• See photos of Santa Clara's Educare event here.
• Learn more about Educare California Silicon Valley here.
• Read about the Educare model and learning network, and find out where other Educare schools are here.
• For research studies on Educare implementation, click here.
• Follow-up studies on Educare programs can be found here.