With new state-level leadership Virginia is poised to make huge strides in early childhood in 2019. With a new Chief School Readiness Officer, Jenna Conway, we anticipate several initiatives will be introduced this year to improve Virginia’s early learning system. These proposals, backed by bipartisan support in the legislature for the expansion of preschool and home visiting efforts, signal a big year for early childhood in Virginia.
As we have done for the past eight years, Voices convenes early childhood advocates representing broad interests to create a Unified Policy Agenda through our Early Childhood Policy Network.
Better tools for teachers. Better outcomes for preschoolers.
We should build on the recommendations of the 2017 JLARC study to provide early childhood teachers with tools for observation, assessment, and coaching that will improve the quality of instruction. Research has demonstrated that improving teacher interactions is necessary to ensure that children can learn the skills they need to be prepared for kindergarten.
Maintaining our progress to help low-income children attend high quality preschool.
For the past four years, Virginia has received a federal grant to expand preschool opportunities called VPI+ to economically disadvantaged 4 year-olds in 13 communities. VPI+ also included additional resources to pilot many of the classroom improvement activities called for in the JLARC study and the VPI Improvement Plan. With federal funds ending this year, we do not want to reverse our progress, close up classrooms, or lose highly trained teachers. The state should offer an incentive to the 13 local school divisions to sustain their VPI+ classrooms. This incentive could bridge funding as localities work toward their required local match. Paying for this incentive comes at an opportune moment when additional lottery revenues can help support preschool initiatives.
Empowering parents to be their child’s first teacher.
Parents feel empowered when they are physically and mentally healthy to meet their children’s needs. They must also feel economically secure. This year the General Assembly will weigh in on policy implementation to ensure that parents have access to health and mental health care. There are too many families with young children living paycheck to paycheck. Voices supports opportunities to provide more economic security. Since babies are not born with instructions, parents need help to better understand their child’s growth and development. Voices supports efforts to expand coaching for parents offered by our network of home visiting programs.
Setting a vision for all children in Virginia to be ready for school and ready for life.
Virginia is lacking a unified vision for the alignment and collaboration among early childhood programs and systems. With many essential elements already in place, Virginia should identify the framework to expand access and improve quality in all early childhood settings. This vision should articulate a process for the alignment of program goals and governance, collaborative data sharing, and measuring success.
Organizations Supporting the Early Childhood Unified Policy Agenda:
American Academy of Pediatrics- Virginia Chapter
Creative Learning Center, Richmond, VA
Northern Virginia Association for the Education of Young Children
Virginia Alliance of Family Child Care Association
Virginia Association of Community Services Boards
Virginia Association for the Education of Young Children
Virginia Association for Infant Mental Health
Virginia Head Start AssociationRead More Blog Posts