A look at the Fresno community's early learning efforts


Fresno often tops lists of the poorest cities in America. Despite its location in California’s Central Valley, one of the nation’s largest agricultural economies, this urban area suffers from high unemployment and rising economic insecurity. The effects of this poverty on the area’s young children have been grave.

Since 2010, about 10 percent of Fresno County’s licensed preschool centers have shut their doors. Nearly half of Fresno’s children live in poverty, a rate that jumped by 16 percentage points from 2007. The national attention Fresno received for its high poverty rates helped galvanize leaders here to better align their systems to support young children. This work, in turn, attracted increased investments from philanthropy. This new focus has helped increase capacity and access to early learning for children birth through age eight.

When money came in from Proposition 30, a ballot measure that increased funding for public education, Fresno Unified School District started shifting resources to the younger ages. The school district invested an initial $7.4 million in early learning in 2011, and has been making significant investments since that time. That money has helped fund 53 new pre-K classrooms, including 18 in 2012-2013. The district has expanded its transitional kindergarten (TK) programs, a new grade level created in California’s public schools in 2010. Plus, a public-private coalition has come together to increase the percentage of students who can read proficiently by third grade. Leaders are looking carefully at improving the quality of programs by supporting the adults who interact with young children in Fresno every day.


Below is a video on how educators in Fresno are working together to improve outcomes for dual language learners.