Creating a Model for Preschool to Third Grade Alignment

The Big Lift aligns experiences from preschool to third grade. With support from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF), the San Mateo County Office of Education is launching an effort to strengthen the alignment of curriculum and instruction that spans preschool to third grade (P3).

P3 alignment recognizes that children’s early development happens along a continuum. It focuses on changing policies and practices in multiple areas, including administrator and teacher effectiveness, instruction, professional development, assessments, family engagement, and data, so that students’ social and academic experiences are connected and integrated as they move from preschool to third grade. 

“P3 encompasses many strategies that are also common in other school reform efforts, the difference being that it intentionally connects to early childhood, where the opportunity gap actually starts,” explained Early Learning Quality Improvement Initiatives Coordinator Diana Harlick. “It is not about doing a lot of new things, it is reframing what you are currently doing and thinking consciously about children’s early developmental needs all the way through.”

P3 alignment ensures educators are communicating, coordinating, and working intentionally across classrooms, schools, and districts so students make logical progress. This collaboration can include combined professional development, independent observations of instructional practices, and aligned assessments. 

Improving the alignment of preschool to third grade curriculum and instruction would ensure smoother grade-level transitions and, in turn, support improved reading outcomes for third graders. Research strongly suggests that high-quality early learning is the most impactful way to close opportunity, access, and achievement gaps, which makes this work a priority of the County Office. 

One local example of P3 alignment is The Big Lift, which brings high-quality preschool, summer learning, and family engagement experiences to students in preschool to third grade. Among its key components is collaboration between its seven participating districts and their community preschools. Some Big Lift districts stand out for their P3 efforts, including Jefferson Elementary School District, which fully integrated its Multi-Tiered System of Support (MTSS) initiative into its district-run preschools. Another example includes La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District, which expanded targeted language support to include preschool classrooms.

The County Office is actively partnering with SVCF to build the internal capacity of County Office staff to model P3 alignment and serve as a P3 hub for districts countywide. Activities under consideration for the current year include a needs assessment and internal trainings. The County Office hopes to integrate a P3 lens into its technical assistance, consulting, and training efforts with all districts.

“Ultimately, we want a P3 hub where we model alignment in our own work and support staff and districts to become more effective in their efforts,” said SVCF’s Early Education Manager Christine Thorsteinson, a local P3 expert and partner who will support this work.

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