2013 Grants Challenge

LAUP/LA2050 Preschool Research Project

LAUP will use the LA2050 Education Grant to initiate the first phase of a thorough research study on the impacts and outcomes of quality preschool for a test group of students. These outcomes will demonstrate how investing in early education now will make LA a better place in 2050 by dramatically improving our education system starting from the students up. Science has proven that 90% of a child’s brain development occurs by age five, but less than 4% of public investment in education occurs by that time. LA’s education system is in crisis, with a shameful lack of state funding making a bad situation worse, year after year. California is 47th in the nation in per-pupil expenditure and 49th in class size, with LA driving that statistic as the largest school district in the state. Leading education experts agree we must prioritize our investment in high quality preschool and early education programs to see the highest ROI and societal impact. James Heckman, University of Chicago Economics Professor and Nobel Laureate in Economics, has appeared before Congress with the assertion that “a large body of economic, health and social science data makes it clear that early childhood education is more than a social imperative; it is an economic one that has far reaching implications for our nation.” So if the experts agree, why isn’t anything being done about this crisis? LAUP recently contracted a third party to conduct dozens of focus groups whose findings substantiated the general misunderstanding about the long-term societal and economic benefits of quality preschool among various LA demographic groups. Without this basic understanding of what it really means for our city, state and nation to educate our population early and well, the type of funding that can only come about through voter approval of new legislation is unlikely to occur anytime soon. Therefore, LAUP will use the funds from LA250 to launch a research project of a scope that has not been attempted in Los Angeles to date. The standard for preschool outcomes research, the Perry Preschool Project of 1962, is still used today as the primary reference of early education investigators. Using leading expertise in the field, we will conduct updated research, using modern metrics and assessments that take into consideration the differences in learning environment and societal influences our young learners have today. For the study, LAUP will select a quality preschool in LA using our 5-Star Quality Rating and Improvement System. This rating system is currently being used as the model for a state-wide preschool rating system that is being developed as part of the Federal Race to the Top grant that LAUP was awarded last year. An independent third-party research firm will collect data to determine how a quality preschool experience affects concrete factors such as community improvement, school readiness, future academic achievement, future income, and health. LA2050’s support will fund the first year, or Phase 1 of a recommended three year project which would extend through the end of the subjects’ second grade year. At that time, the students will begin participation in California standardized testing and can be assessed across large groups of their peers. Phase 1 of the project will yield valuable data on the effects of preschool in LA and the students’ kindergarten readiness as compared with their non-preschool, or lower quality preschool peers. This data will be immediately applicable to funders for future research and policy debate. The next three years of the study, would complete a data set for all participating children so that outcomes could be assessed from age 4 through 7. A thorough study, equal to the breadth of the Perry Preschool Project, would follow the subjects into adulthood. Along with these advanced research techniques, LAUP plans to use a new social media aspect to the study. While remaining cognizant of the privacy of all of the participants involved, we will provide a way for students, teachers, and parents to document their experiences in LA’s schools. This incorporates a community aspect to the study, inviting public discourse and attention, inclusivity, and shared responsibility. This interactive documentation provides an ongoing record of the child’s learning and gives value to his or her experiences. This new study will not only elevate LA as a leading innovator in early education research and advocacy, but will gain the public and government support to pressure our legislators into substantially funding early education, starting at a local level, and ultimately informing our state, and national discourse on education reform. We must start by investing in our youngest citizens. It must start with preschool.


What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

Since 2005, Los Angeles Universal Preschool (LAUP) has supported the operation and/or development of more than 325 preschools in Los Angeles County, touching the lives of more than 60,000 children through enriching curricula and nurturing environments aimed to best prepare children to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

LAUP is a non-profit that was initially created in 2004 by First 5 LA, our primary funder, to fund preschool for four-year-olds in Los Angeles County. First 5 LA was created by the California Children and Families First Initiative of 1998 (Proposition 10). This voter-approved initiative increased the tax on cigarettes by 50 cents per pack and dedicated the funding to early childhood education and health programs for children ages 0-5.

These are some highlights of our 2011-2012 accomplishments:

More than 10,000 children received quality preschool experience.

Over 975 children with special needs received a quality preschool experience.

29 LAUP coaches provided one-on-one quality improvement and professional training to more than 1,752 preschool teachers.

71 preschools provided obesity prevention education to 2,600 students.

Over 1,000 active students and professionals were enrolled in LAUP workforce programs providing support and services for continued education towards a career in early child education.

Over 1,300 parents completed advocacy training and are better prepared to actively engage as preschool advocates for their children and community.

11 parents participated in meetings in Sacramento and Washington D.C. with their elected officials to advocate fot early childhood education.

422 center-based and family child care providers from across Los Angeles County received career and quality coaching and 1,965 attended trainings.

LAUP provides a multitude of services, including:

• Providing financial backing and a business structure for preschool providers to improve existing preschools.

• Coaching support and mentoring by experienced educators to enhance quality and fiscal stability among LAUP preschools, and boost the involvement of parents in their child's preschool experience.

• Giving parents choices about where to send their child to preschool. LAUP preschools include private, public, charter, faith-based and family home care programs.

• Increasing access to preschool for thousands of children in Los Angeles County by providing the operating funds needed to fill previously empty classrooms.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

LAUP will work in collaboration with a carefully selected quality preschool provider, based on evaluation by our 5-Star Quality Rating and Improvement System. Additionally, we will contract with a private, third-part research firm, so as to remove any conflicts of interest.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

The proposed project is itself, a detailed and rigorous evaluation, both immediate and long term, of the impacts of a quality preschool experience on individuals and society. But the specific success of this study will be the revelation of new, comprehensible data, and the subsequent education and involvement of the public on the outcomes of these findings in order to inspire action and lasting change in policy.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

In the year 2050, LA will need to rely on an exceptionally well-educated population to continue to compete as a world class, industry-leading city. With the world economy shifting from Europe to Asia over the coming decades, LA is geographically poised to be a major leading influence in the world’s economy.

But right now, our education system is in peril, and the societal consequences show up in our crime rates, graduation rates, income levels, and subsequently the overall strength of our economy. With this research project establishing LA as a leader in early education research and advocacy, we have the chance to restore our education system and emerge with a strong and thriving middle class. Previous research shows us that early education funding can save at least $14,716 per child just in crimes never committed, reduced justice system costs, increased tax income due to higher earnings, reduced need for special education services, and reduced welfare costs.

LA has specific challenges to overcome and local research will help us to develop program to target LA’s deficiencies. Minorities are LA’s fastest growing population. LAUSD is approximately 73.4% Hispanic. Minority populations have the greatest disadvantages in our school system, as do English-language learners. At the same time, the benefits of a preschool education tend to be most pronounced with minority children of lower socio-economic status, with specific benefits in bridging the gap between English and non-English language learners.

The US is projected to become a minority-majority nation by 2043, and minorities, now 37% of the U.S. population, are projected to reach 57% of the population in 2060. With L.A. County projected to increase by almost 3.5 million residents in 2050.

Quality research on early education will help us to establish our place in the global economy. LA’s students are already at a major disadvantage to our fastest growing competitors. In 2009, US science and math scores came in behind 22 other nations, including China, Japan, South Korea, Belgium, Hungary, Canada, Finland, and Estonia. While other nations are improving, US test scores remain stagnant. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently told a room full of science and math experts of the National Science Board, "We are lagging the rest of the world, and we are lagging it in pretty substantial ways . . . It has huge implications. I think as a real economic imperative, we have to educate our way to a better economy."

We need to focus our efforts on the educational infrastructure now, and close the achievement gap to avoid a situation in which our largest population is the least well-educated. We could lead the nation as one of the world’s most desirable places to live, invest, and partner, because of communities that rank as the safest and most desirable in the nation, and have a top-ranking education system that produces socially responsible and well-educated people.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

In the year 2050, our vision is an LA where every child has access to high-quality preschool. We will have moved from one of the lowest performing and lowest funded school districts in the nation, to one of the top five. All children in LA will have the opportunity to make thriving academic achievements, giving them the freedom and ability to become high-achieving adults. LA will be one of the leading cities in education reform, and our preschools will be models for the rest of the nation. LA will become a desirable destination for young professionals and businesses. A well-educated population will contribute to a general LA culture that places a high value on education at every level as well as an involved community whose activism will not stand for a crisis in education to ever take place again. All of these factors will contribute to an environment wherein both voters and policymakers make funding education at all levels, THE main priority instead of a place where politicians consistently look to make deep cuts.

Our population will be diverse and well-educated. Women and minorities will be fully represented in leading industries at all levels. LA will rival the world’s best cities in industry, creativity, innovation, and education.