Our Impact: Fresno Starting Smart & Strong
The largest city in California’s Central Valley, Fresno boasts a lively community with a thriving agricultural industry. Located in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s most prolific growing region, Fresno produces major crops like grapes, almonds, cotton, peaches, and nectarines. The student population in the school district is extremely diverse, with children speaking over 50 different languages, including over 70 percent who speak Spanish and over 20 percent who speak Hmong.
However, at the same time, Fresno often tops the list of poorest cities in the nation, with nearly half of Fresno’s children living in poverty – a rate that jumped by 16 percent from 2007 to 2016.
With a vision to ensure all children in Fresno can grow up healthy and ready to learn, we are working with the Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) to unite community partners to test and design quality solutions in an effort to create an early learning ecosystem. For example, we have supported monthly collaborative professional development sessions that are designed to improve best practices for Fresno’s dual language learners—where the strengths of a child’s home language is honored to support English language development.
Fresno and and its partners have:
- Created Professional Learning Communities
- Created cross-sector professional development between State Preschool, home-based care providers, and Early Head Start/Head Start
- Scaled developmental screenings
- Supported Family, Friend and Neighbor caregivers through a collaboration with the Fresno Housing Authority
- Provided outreach and training to parents
- Scaled FUSD’s Early Learning Principal’s Academy
- Received a California Department of Education grant to scale its innovative work with Dual Language Learners to other communities in California
- Scaled the Early Development Instrument (EDI), a population-level measure of young children’s well-being
Fresno is now in the exciting phase of looking to scale their work to help even more young children be ready for school.