The Rainin Foundation has partnered with NORC at the University of Chicago to better understand how we can support the dreams Oakland families have for their children. New America, a think tank that focuses on policy issues, wrote a story about our most recent effort—knocking on more than 5,000 doors in Oakland to talk with families.
A New Survey Upends Assumptions About How Low-Income Parents Prepare Young Children for School
By Sarah Jackson, New America
August 3, 2015 – At a summit in San Francisco in January, Ralph Smith, who leads the Campaign for Grade Level Reading, called on the early childhood field to do a better job of partnering with parents in improving outcomes for young children. “Our job,” Smith said, “is to help parents envision a bold future for their own children and then help them to attain that future.”
Yet working closely with parents can be a challenge, particularly in cities with large populations of low-income parents and recent immigrants who may face language or cultural barriers to accessing services, and whose children are not yet in the public school system. Or so people assume. A new survey of low-income, often immigrant, parents suggests otherwise.
The survey of parents with children under age six in Oakland, California, is one of the first of its kind in the city. A research team knocked on more than 5,000 doors in the city to identify a representative sample of 420 parents in 17 of the city’s elementary school attendance areas. The goal is to better understand their needs and experiences and to better engage families in building a system of support for young children in the city.
“We needed to just knock on doors,” said Susan True, director of education strategy and ventures at the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, who commissioned Marc Hernandez from the University of Chicago’s NORC to help conduct the survey along with a team of trained field researchers from the community.
“We don’t know of another survey that’s been done like this,” True said. “There have been a lot of focus groups with families. Typically those have been with families that are already connected to services and so what you get is a sample of families that’s pretty skewed because those are families who have already sought and found resources.”
Instead, True and her colleagues were looking to survey the families who may not already be connected to early childhood services in Oakland, for example developmental screenings or family support groups. Those families may be part of the city’s diverse immigrant communities who left their support system behind in their home country, for example, or families who are being affected by the city’s rapid gentrification and rising rent costs.
Top photo: Downtown Oakland skyline. Photo credit: Flickr / Michael Layefsky