At this time last year, Urban Strategies Council released a report on health and education indicators for young children that found boys of color in Oakland are far more likely to experience an array of poor outcomes in the earliest years of their lives – from high rates of asthma to no preschool experience to lagging behind in the development of pre-literacy skills. We shared the results with several leadership tables, including the Youth Ventures Joint Powers Authority and the Boys and Men of Color Leadership Table. The most common question was: What should we do with this information? Systems, community and program leaders recognized that we have not found a way to hold ourselves accountable for the outcomes for ALL Oakland children.

To get some answers, we formed a workgroup embedded in the Oakland Starting Smart and Strong Initiative (OSSSI), a 10-year collaborative working to ensure that every child has access to quality early childhood education – regardless of race or family income level – and that every adult in a child’s life has the tools they need to support that child’s development. (The Council had partnered with OSSSI from the start to develop the early years indicators analysis.) This workgroup – a team of early health and education providers, practitioners, advocates, data analysts, and parent engagement practitioners –  spent the last six months developing a set of equity-focused early years health and education indicators that multiple systems working together can impact.

Though they are aligned with existing citywide measures for children and youth, these indicators were chosen because we know that our leadership is not currently looking at a common set of early years outcomes, but we need to.  We have a challenge and an opportunity to collectively follow these crucial early years indicators, seize actionable opportunities for improving them, and collaboratively drive any and all program, practice and policy change that will improve outcomes and reduce disparities for young (and consequently older) boys of color.  Read our full Call to Action to learn more about why these indicators are important and how the early years team chose them.  And stay tuned for the results of our next steps for the early years team: identifying, recommending and advocating for programs and policies with positive impacts on boys of color and others experiencing disparities.

About the Author:

Alison has been involved in community engagement, organizational development, and outreach work around education for many years. Alison received her M.A. in Near Eastern Studies and Journalism from New York University and her B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania.

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