Ready by Five Evaluation
Beginning in fall 2021, a third-party evaluation component will be added to Ready by Five. This evaluation will provide an independent and neutral assessment of the millage, which will inform future decisions and funding allocations. The evaluation will provide Kent County taxpayers with an understanding of the return on their investment in young children and their families.
The Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage invests in programs that promote what has been identified as four “contributing indicators” of kindergarten success, including:
- Parents have increased access to resources and information that support their child’s health and well-being
- Mother’s health and wellbeing is supported
- Children are learning and developmentally on track
- Children are healthy
The intent is to evaluate the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage as a whole, not to provide evaluations for individually-funded programs. Through the evaluation process, benchmarks and targets will be defined with the goal of showing:
- How funded service partners are impacting key contributing indicators of health and development of children enrolled in Ready by Five funded services, and ultimately readiness for kindergarten. This includes how services are addressing disparities among infants and children from lower-income households and children of color. Parent feedback and satisfaction will also be a consideration.
- An estimate of social and monetary return for services through a cost-benefit analysis showing how Ready by Five funded programs contribute to future cost-saving and/or social benefits for our youngest children in Kent County.
- Additionally, the evaluation will include the effectiveness of First Steps Kent as the Funding Administrator. This includes an examination of whether funded services are reaching new participants, making sure we are reaching all areas of the county, and group-based factors such as income and race/ethnicity. In addition, they will evaluate if funded programs are operating at near or full capacity.
Agencies selected to support the Ready by Five evaluation include:
Basis Policy Research was selected as they have extensive experience evaluating publicly- and privately-funded education and human services initiatives in numerous states and more than 50 local communities, including Kent County.
Locally, Basis has completed a quantitative evaluation and return on investment analysis for the Doug and Maria DeVos Foundation Learning Educators Initiative. Basis has also evaluated the impact of the Believe 2 Become Baby Scholars program in Kent County and Ottawa County’s Great Start Readiness Program, a state-funded preschool for four-year-olds. At the state level, Basis evaluated the Michigan Department of Education’s Statewide System of Support, which works with Intermediate School Districts.
Advancing Communities for Equity has been selected to support equitable evaluation practices of all aspects of funding allocations; program content, methodology, and outcomes; power dynamics; decision making; and communications. The Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage can have a transformative effect on Kent County by improving equity for marginalized populations, especially communities of color; families with incomes at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level; and geographically isolated and/or under-resourced communities – rural, suburban, and urban. This aligns with the work of the Kent County government to rid its systems of inequity, discrimination, and racial injustice.
The evaluation will analyze Ready by Five data and new data developed by the contracted evaluator to determine the impact of these funded services. By identifying economic benefits that can be persuasively and rigorously traced to Ready by Five, the evaluation will show stakeholders how investing early has a significant impact on our youngest residents in Kent County and ensures they have an opportunity for a bright future.