State proposing new rules for voluntary pre-kindergarten evaluation system

State proposing new rules for voluntary pre-kindergarten evaluation system

Small changes could be coming to the controversial Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten evaluation system.

The state is hoping to work toward making the results more fair.

WHAT VPK PROVIDERS SAY ARE THE PROBLEMS

Patty Paige is one of hundreds of VPK providers upset with the test used to determine whether kids are kindergarten ready.

She's considered to be on probation, because her students scored too low on a test they took three months after VPK ends.

"All through your school year, 1st grade, 2nd grade, college, you take a class and then you take the final right away. You don’t wait three months and come back and take the final," says Paige who is owner of Creative Montessori Academy.

The test is also given on computers when kids practice on paper.

"You are teaching them one way and then when they go to kindergarten, it’s done a different way," says Paige.

Test scores link back to the pre-school.

According to the latest scores available, nearly half of all kids (45 percent) in Florida failed, which means they "aren't ready for kindergarten."

The latest available set of scores show 42 percent of the state's VPK providers are at probation level because of their scores. 47 percent of all providers in Palm Beach County "failed."

That includes Patty.

"Oh, I got 54 and 25. And I’ve been doing this for years. I know how to teach VPK. I’m a very good VPK teacher," says Paige.

Yet Patty's practice scores, the ones on the booklets, are drastically different. They are much higher, in the 90s.

Under a new proposed rule, those practice assessments could now be counted in Patty's final score.

POSSIBLE CHANGES

A bill to put the final test at the end of VPK school year, and on tablets, died in the legislature.

But the state Office of Early Learning says they are currently amending the rules surrounding readiness rates to help with some issues. The new readiness rates would count what they call "learning gains."

"I think what we know anecdotally is that often the children that come in that are most at risk, may not present as being ready for K on their scores, but they’ve made a lot of growth during the year," says Association of Early Learning Coalitions Executive Director Saralyn Grass.

Basically, kids would be measured based on what happened during the school year too.

Test scores from the first and third VPK practice tests, known as pre- and post - assessments, would be calculated into the score, with the kindergarten readiness test results.

The hope is to make the scores more accurate.

"We know the majority of providers are trying their best to do a good job so we want to assist them in being able to demonstrate that," says Grass.

The proposed rule is just that. It needs to go through a workshop and public hearing process first. Then it would have to be approved by the State Board of Education.

VPK providers tell us it's definitely a step in the right direction, but they still think the readiness test should be given when VPK ends, not after summer break.

The Association of Early Learning Coalitions says it is also pushing to raise the amount of money VPK providers receive for each student.

For a lengthier explanation of the proposed learning gains evaluation rule, this is how the Office of Early Learning explained it.

"Based on the proposed rule, the readiness rates would be calculated by adding the percent of children ready for kindergarten, based on the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener (FLKRS), and the percent of children in the rate that made gains times 0.1. Gains are determined by performance on the VPK assessment administered during the VPK program. In order to make gains, a child must advance a scoring category or maintain the highest scoring category from the pre-assessment to the post-assessment in each of the four domains. A child can score below expectations, meeting expectations, and exceeding expectations in each of the domains tested. The domains are print knowledge, phonological awareness, mathematics and oral language/vocabulary. If a child scores exceeding expectations in the pre-assessment for a particular domain and maintains that score for the post-assessment, the child will be considered to have made learning gains for that domain."

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