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Pre-K rating halted after 1 test failed, another too good to be true

April 11, 2016
AssessmentQuality and CurriculumState & Local
Sonja Isger

For the second year in a row, the state will not be rating the 6,220 preschools collecting cash through Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program. And lawmakers have dictated that scores won’t be calculated for next year either. Ever since Florida lawmakers saw fit to invest millions to cover the cost of prekindergarten for the state’s 4-year-olds more than a decade ago, they also required those schools, most of them private, to be rated based on how well their students were prepared once they got to kindergarten. But that rating system was derailed in the fall of 2014 by a new computer-based test. A resolution to end-run that one test and rely solely on another measure also failed this fall when educators and legislators alike agreed the results were too rosy to be true. “The children were now miraculously more ready for kindergarten,” the director of an early learning coalition in Escambia County was quoted as saying after seeing a statewide pass rate that went from 75 percent of providers to better than 95 percent. . .

Some states measure quality by demanding certain standards be met in the classroom – certified teachers, only state-approved curriculum, etc. – the Sunshine State allows parents to choose what quality looks like, explained Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research. For years 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. “So if you don’t give parents that feedback, then you really don’t have anything,” Barnett said.