Friday, June 21, 2024

Virginia Child Care Rating System Aims to Improve Kids’ School Readiness

Children at a daycare center using magnifying glasses. (Courtesy of Rebecca Rivas/Missouri Independent)

RICHMOND — Virginia has implemented new guidelines to establish a unified rating and improvement system to assess the commonwealth’s publicly funded early childhood care providers.

Approximately 75% of child care programs that received public funding previously did not participate in the state’s voluntary quality measures, according to Del. David Buolva, D-Fairfax, who co-patroned 2020 legislation that led to all publicly funded providers being required to participate.

In the following year, a pilot system known as the Unified Virginia Quality Birth to Five system, or VQB5, was created to improve children’s school readiness and expand access to parents and support providers. Advocates say the new system is a critical tool for the state, providers and families to gauge the effectiveness of Virginia’s early childhood education programs.

“It is always important to have the data to show where young children are so that we can make the right investments moving forward,” said Alison Gilbreath, senior director for policy and programs for Voices for Virginia’s Children. “We want all children in Virginia to be ready for kindergarten when they reach that age and we also need to know what communities are struggling the most and sometimes the data can really help us understand what is working well and what isn’t.”

Kathy Glazer, president of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, said in a statement that the organization has been supportive of the system’s developments and implementation throughout the commonwealth.

“By focusing on providing feedback to teachers regarding effective interactions with children and use of curricula that is aligned with Virginia’s early learning standards, VQB5 drives increased quality improvement across settings and classrooms,” Glazer said.

The new rating system

Last month, the Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the system’s guidelines, which will apply to over 3,200 birth-to-five programs including child care centers, and Head Start and Early Head Start programs.

The move is in conjunction with ongoing state efforts to prepare children for school and secure affordable child care, with the well of federal funds drying up.

Under the rating system, a birth-to-five program’s quality of teaching and learning is measured by its interactions between a teacher and child, and a curriculum that is aligned with Virginia’s early learning and development standards. The department said provider profiles, including ratings, will be available online in the fall.

The guidelines will help the state understand how classroom-level experiences impact school readiness and longer-term child outcomes, and provide accurate and supportive feedback to meet diverse needs of classrooms.

Previous efforts

The board’s vote builds on Virginia’s efforts, dating back to legislation in 2020, to improve school readiness for children.

“Less than half of Virginia’s children enter kindergarten without any literacy, math and social-emotional skills they need for success, and [it’s] even more acute for at-risk children entering kindergarten,” said Bulova during a Feb. 7, 2020 House Appropriations committee hearing.

The legislation, which Buolva helped to carry along with then-Democratic Sen. Janet Howell, moved early care and education operations oversight from the Department of Social Services to the Department of Education because the previous system was “fragmented,” Bulova said, lost efficiency and confused providers.

The bill also created the Early Childhood Advisory Committee, which is required to obtain federal funding.

The legislation also established the Early Childhood Advisory Committee (ECAC), which advises the board on all programs, systems and regulations related to Virginia’s unified early childhood system.

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