Early Education – Entering School Ready to Learn and Succeed

Group of attentive children making signs with their fingers during storytime.

During the first five years of life, children are developing rapidly physically, cognitively, and emotionally. This period provides the foundation for a child’s future success in school and, ultimately, in life. A child’s readiness for school depends on meeting her/his comprehensive needs, which include: physical motor development, language and literacy, social and emotional development, and cognitive development.

The City of San José has been engaged in the development of the 2017 Early Learning Master Plan (ELMP) along with Strong Start of Santa Clara County, recognizing that the long-term goal of increasing the number of licensed preschool seats requires significant funding for facilities.

The EDL Strategy identified the need to continue to engage with Santa Clara County Office of Education and the ELMP to identify areas of opportunity to address the lack of affordable, quality preschool sites in San José and return to Council with recommendations for action, as appropriate.

City Programs for Young Children

The City – primarily through the Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services and Library Departments – provides several programs designed to meet the needs of children ages 0-5 and their caregivers. On an annual basis, PRNS serves more than 1,500 children ages 3-5 through programs such as the San José Recreation Preschool, The Hatchery at Emma Prusch Park, Camp San José Junior, and vendor-led sports and performing arts activities. Similarly, the Library’s Early Education Services unit offers more than 4,500 free programs and activities targeted at children 0-5 years of age and their caregivers at twenty-five (25) library locations throughout San José, with a total attendance of more than 167,000 in program participation, each year.

As a license-exempt care provider, the City has the opportunity to raise early learning quality and options for families by adopting a citywide quality rating and improvement system that create common definitions and standards, utilize ratings and assessments to provide opportunities for programs to demonstrate quality, and coordinate supports to help providers with compliance.

Early Education Quality Standards

The Early Education Quality Standards are designed to serve as an internal continuous quality improvement tool to support the City’s Early Education programming across all departments by defining standards and identifying strategies that improve the quality offered through City programs.

The Early Education Quality Standards are comprised of eight Program Quality Standard Areas (Standard Area) that are proven to promote positive child outcomes. Within each Standard Area are a number of essential Focus Areas, as described in Table 1 below:

Table 1: Early Education Program Quality Standard Areas and Focus Areas

Standard Areas

Focus Areas

Health and Safety

  • Child Supervision
  • Facility Safety
  • Staff Training and Certification

Child Learning and Development

  • Evaluation with Children
  • Adult/Education/Child Interactions
  • Developmentally Appropriate Practices

Curriculum and Teaching Practices

  • Evidence-based Curriculum
  • Adaptive Teaching Strategies
  • Outcome-based Program Evaluation

Learning Environments

  • Physical Environment

Staffing and Professional Development

  • Qualifications and Expertise
  • Training and Professional Development

Program Leadership and Management

  • Ethical Standards
  • Practices, Policies, and Procedures
  • Vision, Mission, and Values
  • Community Stakeholder Connections
  • Partnership Engagement

Family Engagement

  • Parent/Caregiver Voice/Decision-Making
  • Balanced Communication
  • Strengthening Families

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

  • Inclusive and Supportive Practices
  • Physical, Behavioral, and Developmental Screenings and Referrals
  • Promoting Racial Equity

Each Standard Area is equally important in providing the framework for building strong early education programming. The Early Education Quality Standards in each Standard Area are organized into four categories that make up a Quality Continuum, measuring progressive levels of program quality, as follows:

  • Basic Quality Not Met
  • Basic Standard
  • Proficient Quality
  • Advanced Quality

Within each Standard Area, the quality expectations are detailed for each more specific Focus Area, defining a “Basic Standard” of quality to which all City programs for young children must adhere. Upon assessment, if a program does not reach the Basic Standard, then it is categorized as “Basic Quality Not Met,” necessitating immediate corrective action. Strategies that achieve “Proficient Quality” and “Advanced Quality” reflect a pathway for progressive continuous quality improvement for City programs to adopt, depending on their level of readiness and allocation of internal and external resources.

Quality Improvement Implementation & Outcomes

Beginning in fiscal year 2019-2020, City departments will begin (or continue) efforts to ensure that all City-provided, -funded, -sponsored, or -partnered programs for young children are in compliance with, at least, the Basic Standard level. This analysis will require the implementation of appropriate assessment tools to identify which programs are currently operating at Basic Standard and which programs need additional improvements.

As a result of these efforts, the City will have improved license-exempt early education options for approximately 34,900 children and their families.

Programs for the Community