United Way Capital Area Releases Findings of Year-Long Study Highlighting the Root of the Achievement Gap in Central Texas Children

United Way Capital Area’s Success By 6 initiative released the results of a year-long study of Central Texas children at the 2012 Central Texas Early Childhood Business and Civic Leaders Summit at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center on Thursday, Jan. 26. The research project made possible by a donation from Samsung Austin Semiconductor and conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, illustrates the state of Central Texas children from early childhood through kindergarten.

Among the findings, the research indicated that the achievement gap is visible in children by three years of age; developmental delays are especially apparent in neighborhoods within Dove Springs, Manor, Quail Creek and St. John; and developmental delays are in specific skill sets, including communication, problem solving and fine motor skills.

“Currently, there is no publicly accessible development data being collected in Central Texas for children ages zero to five,” Debbie Bresette, president, United Way Capital Area (UWCA), said. “This creates a significant challenge in planning for early childhood services. With this research, we are going to change that.”

The Samsung-sponsored project resulted in localized data maps that indicate developmental vulnerabilities in Central Texas children. The maps will allow UWCA to better monitor, diagnose, plan and improve early childhood systems performance.

In Central Texas, only 52 percent of children enter kindergarten school-ready, indicating that delays are emerging even before children begin their education. Furthermore in some local neighborhoods UWCA assessed , only 13 percent of children are considered school ready.

“A child’s experience between birth and school entry greatly determines whether he or she will enter school ready for sustained success,” Catherine Morse, general counsel and director of public affairs for Samsung Austin Semiconductor, said. “It’s important that we prepare our future leaders at this vital time in their lives to aid development and enhance their chance for future success.”

In the four neighborhoods struggling most with economic hardship and poor standardized test scores (Dove Springs, Manor, Quail Creek and St. John), Success By 6 utilized Early Development Instrument (EDI) data in corresponding school districts and the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) data in four neighborhood WIC clinics. The data collected was used to create the localized maps.

UWCA’s research findings will be used throughout Travis County by city and county schools and officials and includes that only 13% of children in these neighborhoods are considered “very” ready for school, and of the St. John children only 5% are considered “very” ready for school. Further, 16% of children in these neighborhoods are developmentally vulnerable in two or more skill sets

In September 2010, Samsung Austin Semiconductor donated $1 million to Success By 6. One third of the donation was used for the research project, and the remaining funds will be used to pilot new programs to evaluate possible solutions for children identified by the research.

Among the new programs, which present a multi-pronged approach to systemic change UWCA will provide 192 low-income families with a Samsung tablet and wireless Internet access at home.In ‘play to learn’ programs it has been shown that online tools such as leaning apps can help greatly with early skill development. Additionally programs include a robust partnership with local libraries for regularly scheduled parent / child reading sessions, and parent training in early childhood education. After two and then 14 months, the children will be tested to determine their progress and the program’s effectiveness.

The data-mapping project is part of a larger collaboration between United Way Worldwide and the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities.

Success By 6 collaborates with more than 30 nonprofit organizations, community leaders and businesses to ensure that Austin’s youngest and most vulnerable children are ready to learn and succeed by the time they enter kindergarten. View photos from the event. 

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