Florida's pre-K program faces tough, new standards, as the State Board of Education voted today to demand more from state-funded preschools and seek to weed out those that offer "a very poor delivery system."
The changes alter how pre-K providers — mostly private schools and day-care centers but some public schools, too — will be rated, making it much tougher for them to earn a good rating.
Their ratings are based on two kindergarten "readiness tests" their students take when they start formal schooling.
The number of pre-K providers who fail their review and are deemed "low performing" under the new standards could hit 2,500, up from just under 800 this year, the Florida Department of Education estimated.
That means 39 percent could be poor performers under the newer, tougher standards. Those providers would have to follow state-dictated improvement plans and could lose their contract to run Florida's pre-K program within two years.
The board rejected the new standards proposed by education department staff, which they estimated would have more than doubled the number of low-performing providers, and instead adopted an even stricter benchmark.
The new benchmark requires that 70 percent of pre-K students test "ready" on both kindergarten tests. Department staff had recommended a 60 percent standard with, perhaps, a move up to 70 percent in another year or so.
Currently, there is no set standard, since the pre-K law had initially allowed pre-K providers to be graded on a curve, so that no more than 15 percent failed. This spring, however, the Legislature changed the law, stripping out the language that meant an 85-percent passing rate, and requiring the State Board to set a new, specific standard.
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About this Study
Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) is completing its latest community inquiry, Children 1-2-3: Early Learning for Future Success. This community engagement process has been examining the question, "How can Jacksonville best foster early learning success for children from birth to age 3 in our community?" Over the course of the process (October 2011 through April 2012), the meeting schedule, meeting summaries, key handouts and relevant articles have all been posted here. To find out more, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.