Contrary to concerns raised by Chris Braunlich (Preschool Pilot Concept Needs Study, Alexandria Times, March 1), Governor Kaines Start Strong Council is, in fact, focused on utilizing real measurements to inform decisions regarding the Governors
preschool initiative. Preschool is one area of public policy where we are fortunate to have access to a significant and growing body of data that shows the benefits of quality school readiness programs. The Governors Start Strong Council is committed to collecting data and to using that research to inform our policy recommendations.
We already know that the Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI) delivers meaningful academic gains for children who participate. We also know that preschool programs in other states have demonstrated significant gains. All of our efforts are geared towards taking advantage of the volumes of information about what works and doesnt work for school readiness programs. The primary focus of the Governors pre-K pilot initiative is to build on VPIs proven model by studying public-private approaches to deliver high-quality programs and to evaluate new accountability measures. Our ultimate goal is to ensure Virginia families have the option to choose a quality pre-k program to help their children show up to kindergarten ready to learn. One year of quality pre-k can make years of difference for a childs academic life.
Like the proposed pilots, VPI focuses solely on at-risk children. Mr. Braunlich suggests we analyze a range of socio-economic factors as part of our pre-k policy review. We agree. While VPI does not provide the range of socio-economic groups Mr. Braunlich suggests, we agree with his intent and fully plan to develop comprehensive program analysis tools. In the future, as the Commonwealth considers opportunities to expand access to preschool to children beyond those eligible for free lunch, we can learn from studies of programs in other states and communities that do serve and conclusively show benefits to both at risk and middle class children. There is a deep body of research shows the persistence of long-term learning gains from participation in preschool programs for all income and socio-economic groups. That data and the data we collect in Virginia will be the driving force behind our ultimate policy recommendations.
Rob Krupicka is an Alexandria City Councilman and is chair of the Start Strong Councils evaluation task force.