What was your preschool's readiness rate

  • February 28, 2020
  • /   Shannon Nickinson
  • /   early-learning
VPK classroom

The other side of the school readiness coin is the readiness rates of the preschools which send our children to kindergarten. 

Based upon how kindergartners perform on the STAR assessment given in public school, the voluntary prekindergarten providers (VPK) are assigned a rate of their own. The state sets the threshold at 60 percent of students testing ready for a VPK provider to stay off of probation. 

Bruce Watson is executive director of the Early Learning Coalition of Escambia County, which administers the VPK program in Escambia County. There are 61 contracted VPK providers in the county. 

Last year only 14 of those sites were in Escambia public schools. The rest are private centers.

Watson says 18 of those 61 providers are on probation for this year. Providers on probation must use a professional development plan for their staff and they receive additional coaching and monitoring from Coalition staff. 

A rule change for this year allowed providers to incorporate learning gains on the VPK assessments. It’s a way to help take into account the fact that children who had a long way to go did make up developmental and academic ground in their VPK year — even if they didn’t ultimately reach the readiness threshold. 

“That gives our providers some semblance of credit for the efforts they provide our children,” Watson says.

An important takeaway in Watson’s eyes — ”The story is, VPK works.”

If you compare the readiness rates of children who finished VPK to those who did not finish — or didn’t attend at all — that bears out.

— In Escambia, 59 percent of VPK completers were ready as compared to only 47 percent of all kindergartners.

— In Santa Rosa, 63 percent of VPK completers were ready compared to 57 percent of all students.

— Statewide, 63 percent of VPK completers were ready compared to 53 percent overall. Of students who had no VPK at all, only 39 percent were ready.

Shan Goff is the executive director of the Office of Early Learning in Tallahassee. OEL is the arm of the Department of Education that supervises VPK. She said that ultimately improving readiness means making sure that the learning experience of our youngest children are rich, full and high quality.

“Children who complete VPK are better prepared to enter kindergarten than those who do not," Watson says. "Obviously it cannot overcome all the issues associated with why our children are not ready, but it does make a difference for a great many of them.”