Data Guides the ECA Agenda

In New York State, we do not have a statewide or a countywide assessment of Kindergarten readiness.  It is therefore difficult to accurately point to data that tells us how children in Onondaga County are doing as they enter Kindergarten.  In 2014, the Onondaga Citizens League study estimated that approximately 58% enter Kindergarten ready (that number reflected the percent of students in 14 of the county’s 18 school districts that were able to name at least 13 letters of the alphabet within a one minute time frame – most would agree that this is an incomplete picture of Kindergarten readiness in Onondaga County).

We do know that children in poverty are most at-risk for entering Kindergarten behind.  Nationally, it is estimated that approximately 48% of children in poverty enter school ready to learn (source: Brookings Institution, Starting School at a Disadvantage,  To improve these indicators, we must improve our early childhood system and we must start at the very beginning, when babies are conceived and born into the community. 

Community Demographics – 2017
Onondaga County City of Syracuse
Births per year 5,039 2,039
Children 0-5 31,293 12,658
% of children 0-5 in poverty 21.3% or 6,665 children 50.1% or 6,342 children

We have approximately 5,039 children born every year in Onondaga County and one in five of those children are living in poverty.  That translates into approximately 6,670 children across the ages of zero through five are living in poverty in Onondaga County.  The vast majority of those in poverty are living in the City.  In the City, approximately 2,039 babies are born each year.  Of those babies, one in two are living in poverty.  That means approximately  6,342 children zero through five are living in poverty in the City.    We know that poverty can be a major risk factor for off-track development.  Research has shown that an array of high quality early interventions targeting at-risk children can pay dividends in the long run.

As we look at our community’s data, we began to see consistently that we have between 20% – 40% and even up to 50% of our children that are demonstrating risk-factors for off-track development.  For example, approximately 20% of children in publicly funded health plans are not having their well-child visits from 0-6, approximately 46% of children are not participating in formal early learning experiences and 63% are not reading on grade level by 3rd grade.  In the City, only 20% of the children are reading on grade level by 3rd grade.  To address the reading on grade level challenge, the ECA is a partner with the Onondaga County Literacy Coalition’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading.

3rd Grade ELA Test Results (% meeting state standard)
3rd grade ELA = % meeting state standard 2018 2017 2016 2015
Onondaga County 38% 32% 32% 32%
Syracuse City School District 20% 15% 11% 8%
Statewide Average 51% 43% 42% 31%

The ECA will continue to refine our ability to measure how children are doing across the continuum from 0-5. However, if we look at our poverty levels and read between the lines with the data we do have available, we see clearly that we have a large number of children at-risk for off-track early childhood development.  That picture comes more into focus as they hit school and begin state testing.

Despite all of the good efforts in our community, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to better support children and families in the early years so that we can have better results in the later years.  It is not hard to imagine that what happens in the early years directly impacts the results we see in the later years for children, young adults and our future workforce.

In response to what we do know about our children locally, as well as what we know about what other communities across the country are doing to strengthen their early childhood systems, the ECA has developed four key strategies that we believe will bring us closer to our goal of having all children ready for Kindergarten.  The remainder of this report describes the key strategy objectives, action steps and data points. The strategies will continue to evolve as new information becomes available and new opportunities present themselves.  Our goal is to be strategic, data driven and to make the best use of limited resources.

Please join us in our effort to ensure that all children in Onondaga County are healthy, thriving and ready to succeed in school. If one or more of the strategies is of interest to you, contact us at the ECA at to join the committees.  Visit our website at and like our Facebook page at