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learn / 2015

Preschool Without Walls

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by SBCC Thrive LA

Preschool Without Walls (PWW) addresses the fact that 80% of the most vulnerable children in Los Angeles are not attending, and will never attend, preschool. PWW has a solution: bring early learning out of the classroom and into the community with pop-up preschools, place based learning, and community run co-ops.

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • County of Los Angeles

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Expand a pilot or a program

How will your proposal improve the following “Learn” metrics?

  • Percentage of children enrolled in early education programs

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to learn.

We all know that creating access to high quality, early learning experiences for low-income children is one of the most pressing social justice issues of the 21st century. Children who have positive early learning experiences get better grades, have higher graduation rates, and earn more money. Most of us—do-gooders, funders, policy makers, early childhood advocates—believe that the path to improving early childhood care is to encourage and fiscally support low-income children in attending preschool and then improve the preschool workforce through professional development. The problem is that the vast majority of the most vulnerable children do not, and will not, go to preschool. In Los Angeles, 80% of the most vulnerable children attend license exempt friends, family, and neighbor care (FFN). They hang with grandma, play with aunty, or are watched by the neighbor down the hall. In LA County there are over 200,000 children in this type of care. Preschool Without Walls (PWW) has a solution to this problem. Rather than pushing families into traditional school, PWW brings early learning experiences into the community through a three-part model. First, we operate informal preschools on city blocks, in public housing rec rooms, in church basements—pretty much anywhere FFN providers naturally spend time. These informal preschools offer research based, culturally relevant, free early learning activities including story time, dramatic play, and arts and crafts. Second, PWW operates place based preschools in libraries, parks, school sites, and churches for ongoing structured learning experiences using easily replicated activities in readily available community environments. These “place based” programs meet weekly and have been designed by the UCLA School of Education to leverage the use of public spaces as natural learning environments. Lastly, FFN providers are supported in organizing community based co-ops—groups of local FFN providers who meet regularly and are supported with take-home activity guides, links to community resources, low-cost learning materials for home use, and daily text messaged activities. Each co-op is visited by PWW staff, providing feedback and support around skills and activities developed in PWW sessions. Does PWW work? According to evaluations by UCLA’s School of Social Welfare of PWW’s pilot program 90% of PWW children improved in every category of school readiness.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

PWW has an evaluation model designed and implemented by UCLA’s School of Social Welfare. Outcome areas measured for children include: developmental gains (motor skills, letter and number recognition, positive play and socialization); improved school readiness and physical health as measured by teacher interviews, standardized kindergarten assessments; outcome areas measured for parents/providers include: increase in positive developmental behaviors, including parent-child reading, parent-child play, and overall parent engagement; number of parents/providers demonstrating increased knowledge on formal early learning resources and programs; number of parents enrolling their children in formal early learning programs, number of parents/providers demonstrating increased knowledge and increased use with their children of community learning and development resources in parks, home and neighborhood, libraries, and schools.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Education/training
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support