For three years now, the planning team for the Oakland Early Learning Symposium has come together to create meaningful opportunities for early learning professionals to explore best practices and learn in community. This year, we wanted to continue to support best practices, while also recognizing the unique circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
At the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, preschool teachers and early childhood education (ECE) providers attending our “Let’s Talk Early Learning” informal Zoom event shared that they were seeing more behavioral challenges than usual as children returned to care and school or started in new ECE settings. Given the weight of these challenges, the planning team wanted to provide Oakland early learning professionals with resources and tools in a way that would be both fun and practical.
The planning team chose the topic of “Fostering Early Social-Emotional Learning through Books” for the first symposium event in November. Through a partnership with Tandem, Partners in Early Learning, we provided all symposium attendees with the opportunity to pick up a bag of children’s books, such as Jabari Jumps and Homemade Love, related to social-emotional learning.
Speakers at the event discussed how to choose books that are age-appropriate and how to incorporate the learnings from the books into classroom practice. Each small group facilitator then featured one of the books in breakout room discussions. One participant commented afterward, “This event was wonderful and so refreshing!” We met the planning team’s goal of creating an inclusive, immersive, multilingual literacy event.
Participants who attended the first event were clear about what they’d like to see again at the next symposium event - more books! The planning team also wanted to address one of the most pressing issues in ECE right now: lifting up multilingual learners and helping them preserve their native language while learning English.
Video: Fostering Social-Emotional Learning through Books
Video: Celebrating Multilingual Learners in ECE
With this feedback, the planning team chose the theme “Celebrating Multilingual Learners in ECE” for the May symposium event, and another book distribution was put together with help from Tandem again, along with Lotus Bloom and OUSD ECE. We included books that are wordless, in Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. We were very fortunate to start the second Zoom symposium event with a blessing in one of the Pomo tribe languages, led by Patty Franklin and her husband from the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians.
The event featured updates on the multilingual learner programs for young children and ECE providers at the Oakland Unified School District and Alameda County Office of Education. We also heard from a family child care provider Carol Wong who provides a Mandarin immersion program at Happa Baby Day Care, as well as from Dolores Jeff who highlighted the Hintil Child Development Center’s history of educating and supporting native children.
One participant shared, “Thanks for organizing this event, books, and blessings! I also especially appreciate this symposium’s efforts to promote and support English Language Learner students and families based on research and early childhood education professional experiences.” This second symposium event succeeded at its goal of lifting up multilingual learners and their native languages, as well as spotlighting the educators who are forging a new path with multilingual education.
You can find detailed information about each of those events on our symposium webpage, including the event recordings. Keep an eye out in the early fall for information about our 2022-23 symposium events. We want to hear from you: what should our next symposium focus on? Who are the speakers you want to hear from? Email us your suggestions and ideas: EarlyLearning.Symposium@OUSD.org.
We’re thrilled to share Oakland Starting Smart and Strong’s 2022-2025 Strategic Plan!
Over the past six months, we engaged in an assessment of our impact over the last 7 years and defined a strategic roadmap for the next phase of our work. We thank the more than 300 OSSS stakeholders who provided input and ideas on our structure, impact, successes, challenges, and strategic opportunities.
The resulting three-year strategic plan details our vision, mission, values, and newly updated pillars. The plan also outlines five key goals and related strategies to drive our work forward as a critical leader in identifying, seeding, and driving equitable solutions to strengthen the City of Oakland’s early childhood ecosystem.
At the heart of our plan is a push for OSSS and our partners to be bold in our approach to create an early childhood ecosystem that addresses systemic racism and is equitable for all children and families. In this plan, as in everything we do, our collaborative strives to center the leadership and experiences of Oakland families and early childhood practitioners.
Over the past 7 years, Oakland Starting Smart and Strong (OSSS) has built a strong, cross-sector collaborative that advances racial justice, develops and amplifies community-driven solutions, and advocates for changes in policy and resources to create an early childhood ecosystem that effectively serves children 0-5, their families, caregivers, and educators. Our new strategic plan plan builds on our past successes, maps a clear strategic direction forward, and is deeply rooted in our commitment to racial justice and equity.
OSSS and our partners look forward to continuing to partner with Oakland’s parents and caregivers, communities and institutions to ensure all children, families, and early educators thrive in Oakland. Stay tuned for opportunities to put this plan into action!
Over the next four years (2022-2026), Transitional Kindergarten (TK) will expand statewide to include all four-year-olds. This is a major structural shift in the mixed-delivery system of care for our youngest Californians.
With an additional year of public school, Universal Transitional Kindergarten (UTK) will provide free education to Oakland’s children at an earlier age and may offer improved curriculum alignment between early education and existing K-12 systems.
Yet without careful and equitable implementation that centers the needs of the children, families, and early educators who will be most directly impacted, UTK may pose challenges for working parents, hinder developmentally-appropriate care for young children, and destabilize the early care and education field by removing 4-year-olds from child care settings.
How can we support equitable implementation of UTK that centers children, families, and early educators in Oakland?
For background information and to learn more, read our brief here.
Early childhood is a pivotal time to provide the supports our children need to grow into strong adults who can reach their potential. Oakland Starting Smart and Strong is working to ensure that young children are screened for developmental, social and cognitive needs, and that necessary services are provided to meet those needs.
In this blog post we highlight how OSSS and our partners at Oakland Unified School District, with the support of Help Me Grow/First 5 Alameda, have successfully scaled developmental screenings at all OUSD Child Development Centers, providing valuable information to parents and providers alike. In a future post we’ll share information about a research study on developmental screening practices across Oakland.
Developmental screenings are a vital tool to learn about children’s development and identify delays or concerns for early intervention. In fact, numerous studies show that developmental screenings with an established tool are far more effective than relying on impressions or observation alone. In early education settings, these screenings can identify areas of potential concern that families and providers can follow up on – and they can also help to open up conversations about a child’s needs.
One of the most widely used screening tools is the Ages and Stages Questionnaire, or ASQ, which is designed to be filled out by parents. Said Jessica Kershner, teacher at OUSD’s Acorn Woodland center, “It is very helpful to receive parent input around their child’s development and is a useful starting point when having conversations with families.”
Back in 2015-2016, with support from OSSS and Help me Grow/First 5 Alameda County, OUSD began using the ASQ for preschool aged children. The process was slow-going at first: the tool was on paper and only in English, and an initial plan to roll it out during enrollment did not yield many results. But ever since the 2017-2018 school year, the vast majority of children at OUSD Child Development Centers are screened using both the ASQ and the ASQ:SE, which focuses on socio-emotional development. The ASQ is available in 5 languages now. Screening is done online; the tool can be pulled up on parents’ phones, and filled out during visits by OUSD staff, during back to school nights and other gatherings.
While enrollment dropped during the 2020-21 school year, ASQ completion was still relatively high – and served as an even more valuable tool for providers who couldn’t see children’s development in person.
How has nearly universal ASQ screening improved health and development for Oakland’s young children? For one, says Zach Gilbert, Quality Enhancement Manager at OUSD, this screening has opened up avenues for conversation among parents/guardians and providers over potentially sensitive topics. It has also enabled providers to tailor lessons to children’s developmental stages, and to refer children to services when necessary.
Said Dr. Dottie Lynch of Bridges Academy at Melrose, "the screening results increased the interest and skills of the teachers, parents and mental health consultant that supports our class. We created small group activities for the children with the intention to improve social and emotional development. We've also connected a few children to speech therapy and behavioral therapy."
Stay tuned for a future post on developmental screening practices across Oakland. If you are an ECE provider interested in receiving training and/or technical assistance regarding using the ASQ and/or ASQ:SE, please contact Vanessa Chen at email@example.com.