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How Florida Becomes Nation's Leader in Early Education?

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

Blog post 11/7/2019

How can Florida Become a National Leader in Early Education?

On October 27th The Tampa Bay Times published an article entitled “Reforming Early Education” written by Emily L. Mahoney. The article provided important information about the policies, practices and challenges facing early education in Florida such as pre-K and kindergarten preschools. In the State of Florida all four-year olds are entitled free pre-K education paid for by the state through the Voluntary Prekindergarten program. Although these programs are available and being used, test results showed that 42 percent of the participants were not ready for kindergarten. Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis expressed his disappointment in a statement, stating the results were “not defensible.” Gov. DeSantis has instructed the Department of Education to produce an improvement plan. A study out of Rutgers University’s National Institute for Early Education Research found that Florida only meets two out of the ten quality standards for preschools. One such standard is that instructors have a bachelor’s degree. Emily L. Mahoney states “Research shows that children’s early education is key to their success for the rest of their lives.” She also writes “Despite its importance, pre-K has not historically received much of the education policy spotlight in the state Legislature compared to K-12 and higher education – and it definitely receives less funding.” So why do we ignore the benefits of having a well-funded and comprehensive pre-K education when the impact it has can affect our young people’s performance in and out of school for the rest of their lives? The intellectual and social return on investment that would be created by allocating more attention and resources during these formative years is invaluable. Clearly the public, parents, educators and our policy makers should make this a top priority. The 2020 legislative session which starts in January provides an important opportunity and forum for Floridians, educators and the Legislature to develop strategies and policies that will best serve our young people and allow Florida to really excel and become a national leader in this space. In the past early education was thought of as glorified babysitting, times have changed and more and more experts in the field are underlining the significance early education can have in the outcome of young peoples lives. Lindsey Carson, chief executive officer at the Early Learning Coalition of Pinellas County, has stated that “We need to make sure our children have a good experience that’s going to spark their curiosity.”

An important component that legislators will have to tackle is, exactly how the performance and success of students is measured. As of now the chief way the performance of preschool is measured is through an assessment administered called the Florida Kindergarten Readiness Screener a few weeks into the school year, these results will then be used to assign a score to the preschool. Rep. Vance Aloupis, a republican representing the Miami area and a leader in promoting early education “thinks the tests should more heavily weigh students gains rather than blanket benchmarks, He argues that the scores are substantially influenced by how much kids’ parents read and talked to them at home, creating unfair advantages for some school depending on students’ home lives” (Mahoney 2019) Educators also argue that children forget much of what they learn over summer as well. This is where an online assessment or activities could build assessments into the learning plans and provide more comprehensive information on how much the students are learning and can also provide a resource that parents can use with their children over and during the summer, perhaps not every day, but at their convenience and material learned can be reinforced


Sources:

Mahoney, Emily M. “Reforming Early Education .” The Tampa Bay Times , 27 Oct. 2019, pp. 1B–5B.




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