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Story posted February 9, 2012
The Iowa State Board of Education has long supported quality early childhood education, and in 2007 the legislature created the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year-Old Children (SWVPP). The purpose of the program is to provide an opportunity for all 4-year-old children in the state of Iowa to enter school ready to learn by expanding access to research-based preschool curriculum and licensed teaching staff.
Under the program, school districts, along with community partners, submitted grant applications to participate. Those awarded a grant demonstrated collaborative involvement with multiple stakeholders in both the planning and implementation of the preschool program. In the 2010-11 school year, 19,799 4-year-old children participated in the SWVPP throughout this state funding, while an additional 5,000 preschool age children participated in this quality program with support from two other funding sources. This is close to two-thirds of the roughly 39,000 4-year-olds in the state. State funding for SWVPP for the 2010-11 school year was $64 million.
Key Requirements for Local Programs Participating in the SWVPP
Positive Impacts of the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program
Districts, families, and community partners report many positive impacts as a result of the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program. These include an increase in:
There has also been an increase in skills development among participating children. Dynamic Indicators for Basic Early Learning Skills (DIBELS) scores from children participating in the SWVPP were compared to children with no preschool experience. The DIBELS assessment measures children’s literacy skills for identifying beginning sounds of words by pointing to the picture of the matching sound.
In 2010-2011, 64 percent of kindergarten children who participated in the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program were proficient as compared to only 57 percent of children who had no preschool experience prior to kindergarten enrollment. In 2006-2007, prior to the SWVPP, only 56 percent of all kindergarten students assessed were proficient. This represents a 7 percent increase in the percentage of children proficient.
The impact of the Statewide V9oluntary Preschool Program is greater for children in poverty (eligible for free or reduced meals). As seen in figure 2, fewer kindergarten students in poverty without a preschool experience were proficient in beginning sounds than students who attended the SWVPP.
What’s Next for the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program?
The Iowa State Board of Education continues to support access to quality preschool programming with the goal of all children entering school ready to learn. The next step is to focus on helping assure that programs are high quality by aligning assessment, curriculum, and instruction. The Iowa Department of Education is working with early childhood consultants in the state’s intermediate units, the Area Education Agencies (AEAs). These AEA early childhood consultants provide professional development and technical assistance to the providers participating in the SWVPP.
For more information, contact:
Iowa Department of Education
Copyright (2011) National Association of State Boards of Education. Reposted with permission. For more information on NASBE, visit http://nasbe.org/.