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Editorial: State’s VPK fail leaves parents with less of a choice

April 18, 2016
AccessAssessmentEconomics and FinanceQuality and CurriculumState & LocalState Pre-K Evaluations

Florida education officials want to take a “pause” this fall in providing ratings for the state’s free Voluntary Pre-kindergarten (VPK) program. They’d like to skip out on this responsibility next year, as well. Good. Let them. They tried replacing a so-so ratings system with a more expansive, computer-based one in 2014, and the technology blew up in their faces. They tried, and failed, again last fall. This is sad news for parents of 4-year-olds trying to find the best option for their preschooler. But no ratings are better than bad ratings. Because if the state can’t reliably say which preschools properly preparing their kids for kindergarten, then these parents are better off seeking help elsewhere. . . 

All the more disappointing that the state has dropped the ball on assessing providers. The readiness ratings were intended to address quality. Parents could go online to find a preschool’s score. The readiness ratings were calculated using two types of evaluations within 30 days of preschoolers arriving in kindergarten. Again, not perfect. But a necessary tool given Florida’s approach to measuring that quality — allowing parents to choose what quality looks like and what preschool is best for them. But as Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research, told Isger, “So, if you don’t give parents that feedback, then you really don’t have anything.”