Children in a drum circle at a Southern California preschool. Photo courtesy of Little Stars Preschool

A study of how San Diego County collected early education data could lead to more effective teaching strategies throughout the state, officials said Thursday.

The report highlights how the county successfully linked data between preschool and kindergarten – something no other county in the state has done effectively.

The San Diego County Office of Education accomplished the goal by linking students’ preschool records to the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System records established for each child upon entry to kindergarten.

The report also discusses the benefits for children, schools and school districts of sharing data between the early education system and the K- 12 system.

The county office, along with First 5 San Diego and Harder+Company Community Research, released “A Successful Approach to Connecting Early Childhood and Elementary School Data.”

Only students enrolled in preschools participating in the Quality Preschool Initiative were tracked because that data was readily available.

To access elementary data, SDCOE established data-sharing agreements with 12 elementary school districts in San Diego County, five of which were engaged in the entire process.

Those districts were Cajon Valley Elementary School District, La Mesa Spring Valley School District, San Ysidro School District, South Bay Union School District and Vista Unified School District.

The report offers a model for identifying and tracking children across educational systems. It also sets the stage for a larger study of the state Quality Rating and Improvement System to examine primary school outcomes for children who attended a quality-rated early care and education setting.

Researchers also will consider the characteristics that contribute to student success in elementary school.

The report “includes lessons learned on approaches we took that were unsuccessful or too time-consuming to produce effective results,” said Lucia Garay, executive director for SDCOE’s Early Education Programs and Services. “This work could help inform any future investments the state makes while developing the California Cradle-to-Career Data System that will eventually link student data from preschool to college.”

While the report does not offer ideas on how to create the new statewide system, Garay feels it could be helpful to those creating the system because it “provides insight on how people work within the current student data-management systems.”

The information provides steps for districts to:

  • improve student retention,
  • demonstrate the importance of high-quality preschool settings to learning and development
  • help to optimize classroom curricula and improve the learning environment, and
  • use to secure state and federal funding for early care and education.

To fully realize these goals, the report states that county offices of education need to be funded to provide this level of assistance to school districts as they seek to address early learning and transition initiatives in their local control and accountability plan.

The report was funded by a grant from the San Diego Foundation.

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