RD433 - A Plan to Ensure High-Quality Instruction in all Virginia Preschool Initiative Classrooms – November 1, 2018
All Virginia children, regardless of background or zip code, are capable of and deserve to enter kindergarten ready. Yet the most recent data from the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program indicates that 40% of students enter kindergarten “not ready" in terms of demonstrating key school readiness skills. For children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds that percentage climbs to 48% - far behind their more advantaged peers. Unaddressed, not being ready for kindergarten has long-term consequences – falling below grade level expectations, grade retention, special education placement and school dropout. Virginia can and should do better.
An investment in the early years of life is one of the best investments society can make. This return is lifelong — children who experience effective early childhood programs are more likely to finish college, get high-paying jobs, and be healthier and happier later in life. Yet access does not equal quality and quality does not happen by chance. If the quality of early childhood education experiences is not high there will be little or no return on investment.
In response to the 2018 General Assembly, the VDOE created this plan to help ensure that the Virginia Preschool Initiative, which serves nearly 18,000 at-risk children across 1,300 classrooms, provides a highquality preschool experience that helps prepare each 4-year-old served for kindergarten. The plan aggregates lessons learned from the JLARC study, Virginia Preschool Initiative Plus implementation, and University of Virginia – Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning (CASTL). As requested by the General Assembly, the plan covers the areas of Curriculum, Teacher-Child Interactions, and Professional Development. See summary on pages i and ii of the report.
The plan also provides analysis on VPI funding and the additional financial investment needed, noting that most activities have been included in the budget or existing funding for VPI-related purposes may be repurposed to support the actions called for in 2019-2020. This includes approximately $2 million currently budgeted for incentives for provisionally-licensed VPI teachers that would likely go unused. In the final section, the plan provides an overview of how the VDOE will approach implementation.
This plan can also serve as a model for strengthening early childhood across other care and education settings. More than 100,000 Virginia children from birth-to-five participate in publicly-subsidized programs annually including child care assistance, Early Head Start, Head Start, Early Childhood Special Education and school-based pre-K including the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI). To improve kindergarten readiness in Virginia, all of these children need access to high-quality classroom interactions and instruction. This plan does not address the implementation steps nor funding needed, but it does suggest an approach that could be applied across settings. Moreover, this plan does align with existing efforts including Head Start and Virginia Quality which are supporting classrooms to use curriculum, strengthen teacher-child interactions and instruction and use individualized data to drive continuous quality improvement. It should be noted that with additional federal resources it may be possible to implement these action steps in more of these classrooms without expending additional state resources.