By Julia Forte Frudden, Research Consultant for OSSS and OUSD ECE
Over the past year and a half, Oakland Starting Smart and Strong and Oakland Unified’s Early Childhood Education Department have been meeting with parent leaders from the San Antonio Family Resource Center to discuss their local Early Development Instrument (EDI) results and learn about their advocacy work. The Resource Center’s Parent Action Research Team (SAFRC PART) is a community of multicultural, multilingual parent leaders who live or work in this Oakland neighborhood; they come together to improve services and resources for families with young children.
In our meetings with SAFRC PART, parent leaders told an important and intimate story about their neighborhood, sharing what they love about where they live and work. From that point, they discussed what they lose out on when early childhood systems -- what we dubbed the“ECEcosystem” -- fail to meet their community’s needs. As our relationship developed with SAFRC PART and we built trust with one another, we at OSSS and OUSD wanted to create something tangible to support SAFRC PART’s work, particularly their proposal for a full-service community resource center in San Antonio Park. We hoped that early childhood data could be an asset to their efforts; above all, we wanted to provide support as the community told their own story and advocated for solutions grounded in their lived experience. The result was draft ECEcosystem Zone Profiles, centering interviews with parent leaders and the organization’s community resource center proposal. We used quantitative data to support the rich stories that were shared with us.
These draft zone profiles were then shared with SAFRC PART so their feedback could shape them. We recognize that data about a community should be owned by that community; they have the right to validate, refute, question, and analyze it. The parent leaders made important changes to the profiles and then identified groups to share the profiles with, including other parents in the community, early care providers, and policy makers.
Through this process, we made sure that researchers and early childhood advocates from outside of the community listened to the experts on early childhood needs in the San Antonio neighborhood -- the families themselves. Parent leaders shared their frustration that the language we used when talking about the EDI tool and the EDI results were sometimes contradictory. We would say that the EDI results were a reflection of how systems were doing, but then we used language centered on children (i.e. X% of children are vulnerable or X% of children are not on track). Parent leaders also shared concerns that phrases like “vulnerable” or “not ready for school” focused on deficits, not strengths. We adjusted our language to “X% of children are fully supported” and we further refined this with more feedback from the community to “X% of children were fully supported by the ECEcosystem.”
SAFRC PART provided us with critical feedback -- both on the EDI results and on the research tool itself. Their feedback also helped us think more deeply about how we could use our power and proximity to power to advocate for ECE data and research tools to be more equitable and antiracist. We are now making important changes to how we present data and we are also currently advocating for changes to be made to the EDI tool itself.
We thank SAFRC PART for their hard work and dedication to improving the ECEcosystem for young children and their families in the San Antonio neighborhood. We are incredibly honored to be in partnership with this amazing group of parent leaders. We look forward to more opportunities to support their work and to following their lead as they advocate for the future they want.
Moreover, we look forward to using our imaginations in our roles as advocates and researchers as we think about how early childhood data can truly be in service to community-led systems change, if and when the community wants it.
If you’d like to connect with us and learn more about this project or review the EDI results for your community together, please request a presentation or email Trisha Barua at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAFRC PART was created through First 5 of Alameda County’s Neighborhoods Ready for School (NRFS) initiative. NFRS funded ALL IN Alameda County which partnered with Lotus Bloom, EBAYC, and Trybe to launch the San Antonio Family Resource Center.