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Kindergarten Readiness in Coastal Oregon Designing a multi-county preschool program with data in mind.

Using data to design preschool

In 2017, the Northwest Oregon Kinder Ready Collaborative asked the Sorenson Impact Center to examine eight school districts' education data to inform their journey of developing a preschool program, aiming to increase Kindergarten readiness. Data scientist Gwendolyn Reynolds traveled to Oregon with her team, gathered mounds of data from hundreds of spreadsheets, and created a visualization to help explain the relationships found among different factors that influence early childhood learning.

Gwendolyn Reynolds, Data Scientist at Sorenson Impact

Turning attention to rural children

The Clatsop-Tillamook area of rural Oregon has very few formal preschool programs and a disparate, rural population. Children there often aren't ready for Kindergarten, and readiness has even declined over the past several decades. Reynolds pointed out one of the challenges in designing a preschool program for the rural community: "There are almost no studies about early childhood education in rural America," said Reynolds. "There's a tendency to only study preschool in urban America, and rural communities have been ignored to their detriment."

A visit to Oregon

Sorenson Impact's data team, which includes Reynolds, Daniel Hadley, and Jon Zadra, traveled to Oregon to learn more about the vision of the program, to interview leaders within the organization, and to convince stakeholders to share their data. The team returned with the spoils of over 100 spreadsheets to clean, merge, aggregate, and analyze.

A network map

Reynolds worked tirelessly for eight weeks to make sense of the data. She was finally able to create a network map visualization, a pair-wise correlation that plots the strongest of 484 relationships. Red lines indicate negative relationships, while green lines indicate positive relationships.

Fascinating findings

The data revealed that Kindergarten assessments (conducted the first week of Kindergarten) correlated strongly and positively to 3rd grade math and 3rd grade literacy state scores. "Research shows that 3rd grade literacy matters for lifetime outcomes like high school graduation," said Reynolds. "So, what you know when you enter Kindergarten is strongly associated with how you do in 3rd grade, which is strongly associated with how you do in life."

Both positive and negative relationships

The Kindergarten assessment was also found to be associated with attendance in Kindergarten through 3rd grade. Reynolds found more strong relationships among economic disadvantage, English language learning (ELL), and special education (SPED). "From there, we see almost all the negative relationships are formed. So, ELL and SPED are negatively correlated with Kindergarten assessments and attendance," said Reynolds.

The data backs hope

To Reynolds, the network map advances the Northwest Oregon Kinder Ready Collaborative's understanding of how to move the needle on Kindergarten readiness for the children in the Clatsop-Tillamook community. By focusing the Collaborative's attention on influencing the factors that have been identified as having strong relationships with Kindergarten readiness, 3rd grade literacy, and 3rd grade math, Reynolds says the question is, "Can we design a preschool program that improves kids' lives? The hope is yes."

Read more about our data team's work at the Sorenson Impact Center website.

Created By
Lisa Cox
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Created with images by ponce_photography - "crayons coloring book coloring book color children" • USDA on Flickr "March 26 - Obesity - Obesity Blog Image Preschoolers in Park"

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