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Gov. Ron DeSantis: Too many Florida kids not ready for kindergarten

More accountability measures are planned after a finding that 42 percent of children in Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program are not prepared to advance.
Gov. Ron DeSantis said nearly 75 percent of Florida parents rely on the state's Voluntary Prekindergarten program, and vowed to improve it. [Times (2004)]
Published May 16

Florida officials on Wednesday lamented a newly released figure showing that 42 percent of children in the state’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program were not ready for kindergarten last year, and said they planned to address the issue with more accountability measures.

In an early evening statement, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he has asked education commissioner Richard Corcoran to create a plan for improving that number “and direct available funding to make enhancements.” He said nearly 75 percent of Florida parents rely on the program, commonly known as VPK, “to lay the academic and social foundation necessary for their children to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.”

RELATED: Prekindergarten teachers ask Florida lawmakers to count them, too

“A 42% failure rate is simply not defendable and certainly not good enough for Florida’s youngest learners,” DeSantis said.

Corcoran said in a statement: “We must have a real accountability measure for all our school readiness programs. We are highlighting this data to serve as a rallying cry going forward that we will improve our early learning opportunities for students. Our youngest learners deserve nothing else.”

ALSO READ: Not a Florida classroom teacher? No Best and Brightest for you.

A news release by the Department of Education outlined one way state leaders intend to tighten oversight of preschools that operate under the Voluntery Prekindergarten program, and it’s already in state law. Beginning in the coming year, the state will start to calculate each preschool’s kindergarten readiness rate using students’ learning gains while in preschool as well as the results from a screening each student receives after entering a public-school kindergarten.

Preschools that don’t meet a minimum readiness rate will face consequences including probation, intervention by local education officials, or being declared ineligible to participate in the Voluntary Prekindergarten program if a school is on probation for three or more years.

Contact Thomas C. Tobin at tobin@tampabay.com. Follow @ThomasCTobin.

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