RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In Virginia, one out of every three children in kindergarten is not prepared to be there.
That is an estimate from a legislative study released this week that looked at Virginia’s childhood development programs
The report to the to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission found 34 percent of kindergarten students start school lacking the social, self-regulation, literacy or math skills needed for the grade.
But the impact goes beyond that first year of school.
The study says children who are not ready for kindergarten are more likely to be held back, enroll in special education classes and perform poorly in later grades.
It says those same students are more likely to commit crimes, become teen parents and rely on public assistance later in life.
While an estimated one-third of students fall into this category, the exact number is not known. That is because no statewide comprehensive data on this exists.
The assessment was designed and administered by the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program (VKRP), a state-funded initiative. It looked at data from 2014.
But only 63 out of Virginia’s 132 school divisions participate in VKRP, making it tough to identify children and families at risk and guide them to the state’s early childhood development programs.
In the report, one of 18 recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly is the require all schools to participate in VKRP to form a clearer picture of readiness.
“Without statewide participation, it is not possible to know whether each child is ready, or in what domains each child need to improve to be successful in kindergarten,” the study says.
The study recommends Virginia join 18 other states that assess the readiness of all kindergartners across multiple readiness domains.
The report also looked at the effectiveness of the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI). It found VPI improves literacy, but its impact on kindergarten readiness is not known because the state is lacking sufficient data.
It laid out design and implementation concerns about the program. One is that the implementation of VPI is local, and at the state level, there are few staff resources available to administer the program. It also notes there are few features to
make sure the program is providing high-quality pre-K experiences across the commonwealth.
“For example, despite the critical importance of high-quality teacher-child interactions, VPI has few assurances that they are occurring in VPI classrooms. In addition, the state has minimal effective controls over the quality of the curricula used by VPI providers.
Many agency staff and experts expressed concern about the quality of curricula used by providers. JLARC staff identified eight VPI providers that reported using curricula that (1) do not appear to be research-based or (2) are not actual curricula,” the study reads.
Another recommendation is to require and provide sufficient resources for the Virginia Department of Education to have a “more meaningful role in ensuring the quality of VPI implementation.”
After learning the details of the report, Del. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk) plans to introduce legislation. His office said that is still in its preliminary stages.