By Mindy Lockhart
Low-income communities in Long Beach face an increasing need for better education for 3 and 4-year-olds but lack the proper workforce and childcare facilities, according to a recent study.
“Not Golden Yet,” a report conducted by the New America Foundation, focuses on California’s need for more early childhood educators as the state becomes more diverse.
The report’s author, Sarah Jackson, said a lot of work is needed in order to increase the quality of teaching not just with preschool teachers but also with parents.
“Research shows that from birth, interactions with adults provide a crucial foundation for learning as children grow,” according to the “Not Golden Yet” study. “Yet, the quality of experiences in infant-toddler settings, such as child care centers, and in pre-K and early elementary classrooms, are often mixed at best.”
Within the Central Long Beach community, the U.S. Census estimates that about 36 percent of the population lives below the poverty level.
The Census estimates the population of children under the age of 6-years-old living in Central Long Beach to be about 34 percent and 77 percent of the children within this community is Hispanic or Latino.
According to the report, pre-K teachers lack adequate training and often face quick turnover due to teachers receiving low wages, on average, $24,000 annually.
“K–12 teacher preparation generally includes field work and student teaching, while many of those in the early care and education system do not have pre-service education nor an expected course for continuing education,” according to the report.
High teacher turnover has had emotional and educational consequences for young children, according to the report.
California’s Proposition 227 prohibits against the use of bilingual teachings in K-12 grades but under the current system, children may receive instruction in both languages prior to kindergarten.
“At the beginning of the year, we speak mainly Spanish to our Spanish-speaking children,” said Belqui Guardado, a lead teacher at Un Mundo de Amigos Preschool.
Un Mundo de Amigos Preschool ensures that one teacher in each classroom speaks Spanish in order to meet the needs of the non-English speaking students, said Guardado.
Jackson’s study finds that once students graduate into kindergarten, dual language learners are thrown into a system that doesn’t allow them to continue to learn in their native language.
It is estimated that 73 percent of the Central Long Beach population speaks another language other than English and 50 percent of the population speaks Spanish, according to the U.S. Census.
Central Long Beach also falls short of preschool seats available despite being one of First 5 Los Angeles’s Best Start Communities.
First 5 LA’s mission is to partner “with others, strengthens families, communities and systems of services and supports so all children in L.A. County enter kindergarten ready to succeed in school and life.”
According to a report from the Advancement Project, low-income communities are encountering a large disparity in access to licensed childcare spaces.
In Central Long Beach, it is estimated that only about 21 percent of licensed early care and education seats are available to the community.
The Advancement Project found that early care and education are not equally distributed throughout Los Angeles County, especially those with low-income communities of color.
The education of a toddler attending preschool is measured through assessment that is conducted three times a year.
Head Start to kindergarten is a major focus of the Long Beach Unified School District that uses ongoing assessment of the child’s development to help guarantee academic success.
Last month, the results from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, showed a gap of education for economically disadvantaged students within the LBUSD.
According to the CAASPP results, 43 percent of economically disadvantaged third-grade students did not meet the English language arts/literacy standard. Third-grade students who do not face economic hardship, 19 percent did not meet the English standard.
Within the subject of math, 38 percent of economically disadvantaged third-graders did not meet the standard compared to 18 percent of third-grader students who do not face economic hardship, according to the CAASPP results.
Bridging this gap will be a challenge for Central Long Beach, which has a large number of Spanish-speaking pre-K students. Pre-K students are no longer allowed to use their dual language once they are in kindergarten.
Lindsey Evans, director for the Un Mundo de Amigos Preschool in Central Long Beach, said that assessment testing for preschoolers does not measure a student’s success.
“It is our responsibility to provide them with an enriching environment and learning activities that will help them grow and learn the skills they need to be successful,” Evans said.
The Head Start assessment measures a toddler’s language and literacy growth, English language development, cognition, social and emotional functioning, physical skills and health.
According to the Head Start Annual Report, parents are also partnered with staff to continue education outside of the home.
“We are only able to provide the family with documentation and observations on the child’s development, a referral letter for special services and guidance in the process,” said Evans. “Ultimately, it is the parent’s responsibility to get the child assessed for special needs.”
The CAASPP was administered in 2015 for the first time and the new test is both more difficult and differently administered, according to their website.