Current State of Education in San Antonio
The great majority of San Antonians are simultaneously proud of our highly livable city and dissatisfied with those educational and economic factors that diminish quality of life. San Antonio’s Mayor, Julian Castro, has responded by organizing and leading an inclusive strategic planning process known as SA2020. A coalition of education and business leaders, community volunteers and elected officials worked for 18 months to develop a united vision and goals for achievement. Their work was informed by over 5,000 surveys completed by local residents on topics related to livability, strengths and challenges. The over-arching, cross-cutting issue is improving education for our children. SA2020’s authentic community engagement methods resulted in multi-sector collaboration and wide-ranging education goals that are relevant to each local district and all students. Within the SA2020 process, baselines were established for kindergarten and college readiness and targets were set for third grade reading scores, high school graduation rates, college enrollment rates, and adult educational achievement.
A comprehensive plan for educational reform has begun to take shape in 2011 when United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County was awarded a Promise Neighborhood Implementation Grant focused on early childhood development and school readiness as a means of increasing high school graduation in the extremely impoverished neighborhoods of San Antonio’s eastside. The educational agendas of SA2020 and Promise Neighborhood also are being advanced by the work of the P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County, which is implementing a collective impact model for educational success. Partners include corporate leaders, five school superintendents, college and university presidents, and United Way. The model’s impact is expanding to all 15 Bexar County school districts and will benefit over thousands (322,219 in 2013) of students in the future. The cradle to career model will feature specific strategies to increase kinder readiness and reading and math proficiency, and other educational indicators that align with the citywide strategies.
While tracking Chronic Absenteeism across 6 ISDs and 30 elementary schools, incorporating a Positive Parent Engagement Strategy significantly improved attendance performances among chronic non-attending children in Pre-K and Kindergarten by 46%. Three recurring issues were identified as triggers for absenteeism: Transportation, Health /Asthma and Lack of Awareness.
The following partners are working to increase the number of ISDs and schools participating in this effort for the 2013-2014 school year to create a citywide initiative:
P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County
Pre-K 4 SA (City of San Antonio)
City of San Antonio Head Start
City of San Antonio Dept. of Human Services
City of San Antonio Municipal Courts
Advise TX College Advising Corps
City Year of San Antonio
Communities in Schools – SA
San Antonio Area Foundation
San Antonio Education Partnership
Rep. Mike Villarreal’s Office
United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County
Eastside Promise Neighborhood
As of August 2013, the following school districts will be participating in reducing chronic absenteeism:
East Central Independent School District
Edgewood Independent School District
Harlandale Independent School District
Judson Independent School District
North East Independent School District
Northside Independent School District
San Antonio Independent School District
Southwest Independent School District
South San Antonio Independent School District
Southside Independent School District
An Attendance Awareness Campaign will be launched “SA Kids Attend to Win” in San Antonio this September with a focus on consistent messaging and tracking non-attendance throughout the city to implement effective strategies and encourage parent engagement.
School readiness checklist
The school readiness checklist that was created by the City of San Antonio was updated this past year with the help of United Way, City of San Antonio Head Start, and the P16Plus Council to be more parent-friendly, include new resource information, and provide material regarding educational sites and museums around the city. The checklist can be adapted based on the organization or school district distributing it, and provides general suggestions of basic concepts that children should know by the time they enter school. The readiness checklist is geared toward parents who have children birth to 5 years old with a focus on those children who do not attend any formalized care or education before entering kindergarten. The brochure, available in English and Spanish, has been distributed through school districts, childcare centers, Head Start, local non-profit agencies, and parenting classes.
San Antonio is Our Classroom
San Antonio is Our Classroom is a program under P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County that highlights affordable, educational resources available to parents and students. On the San Antonio is Our Classroom web page; caregivers can find educational programs and activities that contribute to the exploration and discovery of a child’s academic development. This resource aids families in ensuring that their children are better prepared and inspired to achieve success. This program also works with school districts and parents to provide opportunities for all San Antonio students to visit and interact at educational sites such as the San Antonio Public Libraries, the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, the San Antonio Museum of Art, the San Antonio Children’s Museum, the Planetarium at San Antonio College, Texas Butterfly Ranch, the Southwest School of Art, the Magik Theatre, the McNay Museum, and the Witte Museum. Summer Programming information is also available both free and tuition-based.
The Early Development Instrument
Currently, there are 15 school districts within Bexar County and they all have the option to use different kinder readiness assessments. As a way to create consistency and implement a single kinder-readiness tool across all districts, United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County has been employing the Early Development Instrument. The Early Development Instrument (EDI) is a kindergarten assessment that kinder teachers complete in February or March all based on recall, the child does not need to be present. The data is collected through a secure database and then geo-coded to develop maps with areas of developmental vulnerabilities based on census tracks, rather than individual assessment data. The five developmental vulnerabilities that are tracked are: physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive development, and communication skills and general knowledge. The data is collected to determine how experiences in home, the community, and formal and informal childcare can help prepare children for school.
The 2011-2013 school year was the first round implementation of the Early Development Instrument with Edgewood, Harlandale, and San Antonio Independent School Districts. Over 3,500 kindergarten student assessments were collected and maps were produced based on the results. To continue our expansion, the 2012-2013 school year included Edgewood, Harlandale, Northside, and San Antonio Independent School Districts and over 14,000 kindergarten student assessments collected. We will be working towards incorporating all 15 school districts into this project within the next 5 years. The results allow the city to plan parent programs, early childhood services, and specific curriculums and programs based on the developmental domains and the readiness of kindergarten students. The Early Development Instrument will also allow us to track kinder readiness, an SA2020 indicator chosen by the community, for the very first time.
The City of San Antonio has served as the Head Start Grantee for the San Antonio area for over 30 years, continuing with the fundamental mission to ensure that children and families in the San Antonio community have equal opportunities for future success in school and life. During the 2012-2013 school year, the City of San Antonio Head Start Program provided educational, medical, dental, nutrition, and mental health services to over 6,000 children and families. The City of San Antonio has collaborated with community partners, such as United Way, P16Plus, Eastside Promise Neighborhood, Texas School Ready, and Reach Out and Read to maximize resources, support community learning and growth, and continuity in working towards preparing children for success in school. In addition, the City of San Antonio Head Start Program collaborated with the San Antonio Public Library to provide the Little Read Wagon Program for our children and families.
On November 14, 2012, the San Antonio Head Start Program held the first Head Start Parent Conference: Nurturing Parents, Happy Children, Thriving Families! Approximately 250 parents, exhibitors, trainers and volunteers attended. Former Head Start student and current children’s book author, Kimberly Johnson, was the keynote speaker. Through her highly motivating and interactive session she was able to captivate the audience while explaining the importance of parent’s involvement in their children’s reading and education.
Head Start embraces and supports continual program improvement and professional development. The City of San Antonio provided professional development days targeted towards language and literacy to support teacher understanding and improve instructional practices and assessment implementation. The first San Antonio Head Start Early Childhood Language and Literacy Conference was held in January 2013. The conference, co‐sponsored by the City of San Antonio, Department of Human Services, brought together Head Start and early childhood administrators, staff, and community stakeholders to further explore ideas to enhance conversation and share best practices, and to use research based initiatives in the area of language development and early literacy. Dr. D. Ray Reutzel, an Emma Eccles Jones Distinguished Professor and Endowed Chair of Early Childhood Literacy Education from Utah State University, presented to over 170 attendees. At the conference Dr. Reutzel shared lessons learned from his research in the area of early childhood language development and literacy.
The City of San Antonio Head Start Program sets school readiness goals based on child assessment and program data. Each of our education service providers indicated meeting all established school readiness goals for children transitioning from Pre-Kindergarten to Kindergarten. The number of children transitioning to Kindergarten that received a rating of accomplished or met expectations on various assessments increased from the beginning of the year to the end of the year in all learning domains. In an effort to aggregate and analyze data at a program level, in the 2013-2014 school year, the Head Start education service providers will utilize common assessment tools.
Eastside Promise Neighborhood
The Eastside Promise Neighborhood unites institutional and resident stakeholders to leverage and strengthen the neighborhood’s assets and resources so that children and families are inspired to stay, grow, graduate… and stay. Eastside Promise Neighborhood is heavily focused on early childhood education with emphasis on parent engagement and providing strategies for children to learn whether they are in formal or informal care settings.
Promise Neighborhood School Readiness Strategies:
Increase the number of three and four year children in full-day Pre-Kindergarten
EPN partnered with SAISD on Pre-K satellite classrooms at Miller Child Development Center and Ella Austin Community Center. Teachers are using SAISD certified Early Childhood Development curriculum. Professional development training was implemented for Pre-K teachers at satellite classrooms to improve the overall quality of instruction.
73 three and four year olds in full-day Pre-Kindergarten at SAISD satellite classrooms. These children had never been in a formal educational setting. SAISD’s conducted an assessment at the beginning of the year that showed most children were developing on track in eight developmental domains that include Language and Math. For children assessed with possible delays, early education staff at Tynan and the Pre-K classrooms at Ella Austin and Miller have used the data to identify developmental strategies.
120 early child care and Pre-K slots were established for children with parents or caregivers participating in EPN workforce development efforts.
Building network of childcare centers and registered family home providers to offer development opportunities that strengthen quality of care for children ages 0 to 5
Establishing an Early Learning Network of five childcare centers and two formal home care providers. The network will strengthen service quality through professional development activities. EPN also published a calendar of training opportunities for 2013.
Expanding efforts to improve the quality of care provided by informal home providers for children ages 0 to 5 (Family, Friends, and Neighbors)
44 parents learned about age appropriate functioning of their children and their role as the child’s first teacher through Parent Talk, a fifteen-week class provided at three Eastside locations during 2012. Parent Talk will add six Eastside sites in 2013.
17 caregivers and 16 children learned the value of child’s play in development and learning through Play and Learn, implemented by EPN partner KLRN the Learning Place at Tynan Early Childhood Center. EPN funded KLRN to add two Eastside Play and Learn sites in 2013.
Help ensure that children at Tynan meet Early Head Start and Head Start requirements to have a medical home
283 children ages 2 to 5 in Early Head Start and Head Start at Tynan are required to have a medical home in order to attend. Parent Representatives from Tynan’s parent rooms, which are administered by Family Service Association with funding from United Way, assist parents and caregivers with obtaining the medical home. The Parent Representatives contact the parent, help make the first doctor’s appointment, transport them if needed, and stay with the family through the entire doctor visit process. 100% of the children at Tynan have a medical home.
This summer, the Eastside Promise Neighborhood introduced the first annual Kinder Boot Camp. Eastside Promise Neighborhood hosted a free 3-week Kinder Camp to help children prepare for the 2013-2014 school year and entering kindergarten. The program enrolled 75 four year olds entering Bowden, Pershing or Washington elementary schools were encouraged to enroll through a partnership with the San Antonio Independent School District. The program began on July 22 and ran through August 9th. Students had an opportunity to explore their school campus and participate in fun learning activities with their teacher for the school year. Through this three week program, parents also visited with teachers and became familiar with the school’s expectations for their little ones.
PreK 4 SA
PreK 4 SA was created to provide quality prekindergarten for four-year olds citywide. The initiative was funded by 1/8 cent increase in local (San Antonio) sales tax rate (1/8 cent per $1.00 of taxable purchase) beginning April 1, 2013. Over the next 8 years (2013-2021) PreK 4 SA will provide 22,400 four-year-olds high-quality prekindergarten education through: four Model Education Center facilities serving 500 students each with full-day Pre-K instruction; competitive grant awards to local independent school districts and other education providers to educate 1,700 children annually; and Professional Development for Pre-K through Grade 3 educators throughout the city.
The Goals for PreK 4 SA:
Achievement gaps reduced by at least 25% in language, 33% in math, and 90% in literacy when compared to kindergarten students who do not attend Centers
By 3rd grade, students from Centers should close the achievement gap in STAAR reading and math assessments by at least 10%
20% to 40% Reduction in special education placement and grade retention
To provide high-quality professional development for all Pre-K through 3rd grade educators in the City
To help prepare our children for the 21st century job market
This August, PreK 4 SA will open the first two sites and begin serving 700 four year olds.
Challenges and Moving Forward
One of the main barriers that we have to overcome in San Antonio is the division of 15 school districts. Although local organizations and initiatives such as SA2020 bring together the districts, they all continue to operate independently and have their own curriculum and assessments. This becomes a challenge because it is difficult to compare across districts when there is not a standard assessment or tool used. By working on local initiatives such as the Early Development Instrument, San Antonio is Our Classroom, and Attendance Awareness, we are moving the needle on district collaboration and standard tools.
Experts agree that children who are exposed to books and read during the summer months keep their reading skills sharp and are better prepared for the challenges of the next grade level. With this in mind, various programs throughout San Antonio provided children with books this summer to encourage reading while students are not in school. We know that working with students in 2nd and 3rd grade may often be too late and to overcome barriers and increase education and literacy levels city-wide, we have to start early and work with as many children and families as possible. Through the numerous early childhood and education programs implemented in San Antonio, we have been impacting children at a young age and engaging parents to encourage reading and literacy, leading to higher 3rd grade reading scores, and lower percentages of students being held back.
Throughout the planning and implementation process of PreK 4 SA, SA2020, Promise Neighborhood and the P16Plus Council, we have grown into a stronger city through collaboration, data sharing, and accountability. During this same period, HEB launched its Read 3 program aimed at encouraging reading with 3-year-olds with no formal education; San Antonio Youth Literacy is partnering with SA2020 and P16 to ramp up the number of struggling 2nd grade readers it touches through tutoring and mentoring; and the Eastside Promise Neighborhood has targeted coaching resources to its 5 schools with reading coaches in all the elementary schools beginning 2013-2014. One of San Antonio’s greatest strengths is that we are a large city with a close-knit community and we have a lot of pride in where in live. Rather than giving up or waiting for someone else to tackle the tough education issues, we have all come together to create strong, lasting partnerships between non-profit, corporate, and government leaders. San Antonio is in the forefront of innovative programs and strategies and positioned as a national leader in school readiness, improved third grade reading, education reform, and parent engagement.