Taking the 4 Ingredients of Quality to SCALE, Across Virginia

We’re wrapping up 4 years of intensive work to expand access to and quality of PreK for vulnerable children in 13 high-need communities around Virginia (supported by a federal grant).

There’s much to celebrate– over 13,000 more children having accessed highly effective programs that made a demonstrable impact (spoiler alert!)

Block pyramid
Source: istock.com/plufflyman

While we’re transitioning from VPI+ to a new chapter, we are faced with the challenge/opportunity of bringing lessons learned about improving quality at scale.

This takes us to the Commonwealth’s vision for early childhood, as voiced by our Chief School Readiness Officer, Jenna Conway:

The vision for early childhood in Virginia:

Quality for every child, in every setting, in every classroom, in every community.

Regardless of zip code.

Regardless of the sign on the door.

As Virginia moves ahead to enact this vision on many fronts–through the new Preschool Development Grant 2.0: Birth to Five, the VPI Plan to Ensure High-Quality Instruction, and Mixed-Delivery Preschool Grant Program, to name a few– there are lessons to glean fromVPI+.

In this month’s blog, we’ll cover key take-aways, illustrated through visuals and videos.

At the end, we’ll share the link to a white paper where you can dig into data and take-aways in more depth!

4 Key Elements of High-Quality Preschool Programs

The VPI+ design for preschool program quality, which parallels the vision for Virginia statewide, identifies four elements:

  • effective classroom interactions,
  • evidence-based curriculum,
  • formative assessments, and
  • family engagement.

Watch the video below to learn more:

Video [3:10]

The Impact of High-Quality Preschool on Children’s Learning and Development

Results from a rigorous evaluation study conducted by SRI International demonstrates many significant, positive outcomes for children who attended VPI+, including:

1) enhanced kindergarten entry skills,

2) closing of gaps for Dual Language Learners, and

3) accelerated growth in preschool learning and development, within and across years.

See below as one example– participating in VPI+ amounted to 3.4 extra months of math learning and 8.8 additional months of literacy skills!

bar graph: math and literacy gains
source: SRI 2019

Numbers don’t lie– it worked!

What worked, and How?

VPI+ raised quality in many ways, including use of evidence-based curricula, formative assessments, and enhancing teacher-child interactions. Look at how CLASS® interactions grew over 2 years!

Bar graphs of CLASS (R) improvement
SRI 2019

To achieve these quality enhancements, VPI+ provided teachers individualized, data-driven professional development including coaching. Programs provided families additional supports, such as comprehensive services and home visiting through the work of family engagement coordinators. Finally, program leaders received training and support around data use and continuous improvement.

3 Key Lessons Learned to Take Statewide

#1 The success of VPI+ required an investment in capacity building at all levels– state, division, school/program, and individual educators.  You can hear from teachers about how the investment in effective, supportive professional development made a difference for them here.

#2 The effective use of data was a consistent focus of capacity building at each of these levels– helping teachers use formative assessment data to individualize instruction, helping coaches use classroom data to target professional learning, and supporting leaders in using data to develop and maintain rigorous approaches to continuous improvement.

#3 Ongoing success and scaling will depend on collaboration statewide to address some of the most pressing issues, such as

  • Access: ensuring sufficient access to high-quality preschool and other early care and childhood education (ECCE) settings
  • Attendance: working to help families so that children can attend regularly
  • Challenging behavior and Inclusion: helping programs to effectively meet the needs of children with challenging behavior as well as children with varied special needs
  • Data use: continuing to invest in effective data use at all levels.

Many of these issues have been raised by programs across settings… so it’s a matter of coming together to better understand the causes and align our efforts to solve them!

To learn more, download the white paper here: Increasing the Impact of Preschool in Virginia: Lessons Learned in VPI+ (PDF)

Stay tuned in the coming months for more on the topic of inclusion and the future of PreK/ECCE in VA!

Source: P-3 Institute, University of Washington, Kristi Kauerz

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