1. News
  2. /
  3. Gradebook

New rule would put more pressure on pre-K programs to get kids ready for kindergarten

If approved by the state education board, the proposal would spotlight the learning gains of Florida’s youngest students.
Aiden Greenough, left, and Felicia Barrett celebrate graduation in 2017 from the VPK program at the Boys and Girls Club of Hernando County. The state is preparing to change the way it assesses whether prekindergarten programs have prepared children for kindergarten.
Aiden Greenough, left, and Felicia Barrett celebrate graduation in 2017 from the VPK program at the Boys and Girls Club of Hernando County. The state is preparing to change the way it assesses whether prekindergarten programs have prepared children for kindergarten.
Published Aug. 16, 2019
Updated Aug. 16, 2019

Ever since the creation of Florida’s Voluntary Prekindergarten program, early education advocates have said the state needs to measure children’s abilities as they enter and as they leave, to determine whether their schools have helped them.

After years spent slowly moving in that direction, with changing assessments and added post-testing, the State Board of Education appears poised to take the next step.

It has a rule up for consideration Wednesday that would add learning gains to the kindergarten readiness rating the state gives to pre-k providers. That would make it more like the state’s K-12 accountability system, which first began calculating only passing rates and later included student growth in the mix.

The proposal, first mentioned to the board in July, would determine gains by looking at the number of students who performed better on all four categories of their assessment — Print Knowledge, Phonological Awareness, Mathematics and Oral Language/Vocabulary — at the end of the year. Those who maintained an “exceeding expectations” level would also be counted.

The percentage of students who made gains would then be combined with the percentage of students at considered “ready” to establish a school’s kindergarten readiness rating.

The change emerges soon after Gov. Ron DeSantis complained that too few youngsters were entering kindergarten prepared for the material.

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

Richard Corcoran, the governor’s handpicked education commissioner, said at the time that changes would be forthcoming.

“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," Corcoran said.

At the board’s July meeting, Department of Education chief of staff Alex Kelly said the readiness formula change was just one move in the works. He explained that a new funding model was in development, and noted that a new advisory committee was working to redesign the state’s prekindergarten program.

The department also recently rehired well-respected former early education chief Shan Goff to lead the effort. She most recently had been working for Jeb Bush’s education foundation.

Florida has received praise for the accessibility of its pre-k program, which serves nearly 175,000 four-year-olds. At the same time, though, it has been criticized for its comparatively low per-student funding, and for its lack of curriculum requirements. See the National Institute for Early Education Research’s most recent review for added details.

Some lawmakers have said they want to find ways to improve the state’s early education system. Some observers have criticized any effort, though, that gives tests to the state’s youngest students.


  1. More than 100 people turned out Jan. 15, 2019, to give the Pasco County School Board their thoughts on the district's policy and procedures for transgender student rights. Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times [JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK]
  2. Hudson High student Kaitlyn Helzer introduces herself to a curious corn snake during the Nature Coast Envirothon, held Feb. 19 at Dade Battlefield Historic State Park in Sumter County. Students from Pasco, Hernando, Sumter and Citrus counties tested their knowledge on aquatics, forestry, soils and wildlife while vying for a spot at state competition. [MICHELE MILLER  |  Times]
  3. Incoming Superintendent Addison Davis (center) and School Board Chair Melissa Snively (right) sign Davis' contract with the Hillsborough County School District after it was unanimously approved by the school board on February 18, 2020. [JUAN CARLOS CHAVEZ  |  Times]
  4. Teacher Dequita Parker guides youngsters to lunch from the playground Sept. 20 at the PromiseLand Early Childhood Education Center in Tampa.
  5. Associate professor of biology Caitlin Gille leads the Pasco-Hernando State College faculty union, which challenged the school's public comment rules.  (Photo Courtesy of Caitlin Gille)
  6. Sen. Audrey Gibson, leader of the Florida Senate Democrats, introduces a bill in January to refocus the $900 million proposed for teacher pay into salaries for all public school employees. It's just one of many ideas still floating around Tallahassee relating to educator raises. [The Florida Channel]
  7. A small group of students were rushed inside a bus at dismissal at AMIKids on Friday, Feb. 21, 2020 in Pinellas Park.  [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  8. School employees Jarvis Delon West, left, and Dontae Antonio Thomas, right, were both arrested in connection with the assault and injury of a 12-year-old boy who attended AMIkids in Pinellas Park. The state shut the school down. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
  9. First Lady Casey DeSantis talks with students during the Hope for Healing a mental and substance abuse initiative held Roland Park K-8 School in Tampa, Florida on Thursday, May 16, 2019. Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said state officials worked closely with DeSantis to craft the new rule. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
  10. In this Feb. 14, 2018, photo, students hold their hands in the air as they are evacuated by police from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland after a shooter opened fire on the campus. [MIKE STOCKER  |  AP]
  11. Pinellas County School Board member Carol Cook, left, celebrates her reelection to her fifth term in 2016. If ultimately approved, a term limits proposal would force Florida's school board members out after two consecutive terms.
  12. State Rep. Anthony Sabatini fields questions on the House floor on Feb. 19, 2020, about his proposal to ask voters to limit school board member terms. [The Florida Channel]