Prior First 5 Program Investments


Since 2000, First 5 California (F5CA) has invested over $492 million in improving the quality of early learning settings and supporting the quality of the early childhood workforce in California. Research shows high-quality early learning programs improve school readiness and lead to better long-term academic achievement. High-quality early education helps reduce unemployment, drug or alcohol abuse, high school dropout rates, and crime. In particular, teacher effectiveness, and quality of adult-child interactions, are among the most important factors impacting the quality of early learning programs.

In 2000, F5CA launched its first investment in improving the quality of early learning through the Comprehensive Approaches to Raising Educational Standards (CARES) Program. CARES was developed to support the retention and the professional development and education of the early childhood workforce. The program transitioned into CARES Plus in 2011 with an emphasis on training and support for effective teacher-child interactions. From 2011 through 2016, CARES Plus served 16,600 participants by providing incentives, support systems, training, and technical assistance for early childhood educators, improving their education and increasing participation in targeted professional development. Evaluation of CARES Plus showed: 1) participants highly valued the program; 2) counties participating in the program collaborated with local partners to improve access to training and education; and 3) evidence-based training and coaching improved the quality of teacher-child interaction as assessed by the Classroom Assessment Scoring System® (CLASS®).

In 2005, F5CA launched another effort to support the quality of early learning through the Power of Preschool (PoP) Program. PoP supported high-quality preschool in areas with low performing schools and provided tiered financial incentives based on meeting quality factors. In 2012, the program transitioned into the Child Signature Program (CSP) and expanded to serve high-quality infant-toddler programs. CSP annually served approximately 24,000 children in 1,300 classrooms during 2012–2015. CSP provided enhanced supports integrating proven elements from other successful F5CA programs and drew on F5CA’s partnership with the Educare quality learning model. Evaluation of CSP showed participating classrooms were of high quality as assessed by Environment Rating Scales and CLASS®.

In 2015, the F5CA State Commission transitioned from specific investments in the Child and Teacher Signature Programs (CSP and CARES Plus) to broader systems support through a five-year $190 million investment in First 5 IMPACT (Improve and Maximize Programs so All Children Thrive) (link to page). First 5 IMPACT supports the early learning workforce and quality improvements in early learning settings through quality rating and improvement systems (QRIS). This effort expands partnerships and creates new opportunities with an enhanced focus on sustainability by engaging the entire early learning site in continuous quality improvement.

F5CA acknowledges the exemplary work and dedication of CARES Plus and CSP Lead Agencies to improving the quality of early learning programs for children ages 0 to 5 and their families, and supporting the education and preparation of an effective and diverse early learning work force. The findings from those programs were used as the foundation for First 5 IMPACT.

Evaluation reports for CARES Plus and CSP are available online can be found on this website here.