Building and sharing a better understanding of kindergarten preparedness

As a data-informed initiative, ARISE relies on local data to steer our action. In some cases there is very little data, or the data that exists is limited or flawed and fails to provide an accurate picture. Where data does not exist or is limited, there is an opportunity to learn more by conducting or partnering in data collection. With this intent, ARISE contributed to “Early Care and Learning in Anchorage: Survey of Anchorage Families,” a statewide survey published by thread and the Alaska Early Childhood Coordinating Council in September 2015. ARISE funded the data collected about use of early care and learning in Anchorage, and added an Alaska Native and American Indian-specific component to the study, which was designed to find out more about the type of child care or early learning services people were using, and some of the economic considerations involved.

One of the most important things this report revealed is that, overall, families in Anchorage are engaging with and utilizing the early care and learning system in fairly similar ways.

Main Difficulties of finding early care:

Fast facts about use of early care and learning for Anchorage families with children under age six:

Early Care

68 percent of Alaska Native children, and 62 percent of all young children in Anchorage received early care and learning services.

Center-Based care

48 percent of all the children under six who received care and 55 percent of the Alaska Native children attended center-based or pre-elementary care.

Child care assistance

Among all Anchorage families with children under six, 14 percent received child care assistance in the month prior to the survey. When looking at just families with Alaska Native children under six, 13 percent received assistance.

Finding care

Half of all families in Anchorage reported that finding care is difficult.

Understanding families’ paths to better support their journeys

“Kindergarten preparedness” begins long before a child’s first day of school. Learning about families’ use of early care and learning for their children, and the challenges they face in accessing care will help us understand families’ paths to ensuring their children’s preparedness and school success, and our community’s strengths and weaknesses in supporting their journeys.

As part of ongoing efforts to learn more about families in Anchorage, the experiences of parents and caregivers, and how best to communicate with them, ARISE conducted a series of in-depth interviews with parents of Alaska Native children aged 0-5. Every family is different and the parents interviewed shared their unique perspectives on topics ranging from where they get news, what they know or think about early learning and kindergarten preparedness, to their family activities, social media use, and awareness about community resources. These families’ input will help ARISE and our partners develop new and better ways of talking about kindergarten preparedness that are more useful to parents.

What does “Ready” mean?

One parent expressed her own concerns about her child’s readiness for kindergarten, and that she and the teacher had different ideas of what “ready” meant: “I don’t know. I felt like mine was not ready but she was interviewed by the teacher and they thought she was. I thought she should know how to write her name and stuff.”

What resources are available?

Another parent said this about community resources: “I think there is a lot of stuff available, people just don’t know about it. Put more information out there and tell us what is available to parents.”