June 28, 2006
Director of Communications
Public Information Officer
Virginia Board of Education President Mark E. Emblidge today announced the formation of a special Board committee on strengthening early childhood education in the Commonwealth. Dr. Emblidge selected Board member Eleanor B. Saslaw of Fairfax County to chair the committee, which will include fellow Board member Kelvin Moore of Lynchburg. Other Board members also will participate as the committee:
- Establishes guidelines for school divisions for developing, selecting, and evaluating preschool curricula for quality and alignment with Virginia’s Foundation Blocks for Early Learning, which constitute the Commonwealth’s standards for appropriate early childhood education in English, mathematics, science, and social science;
- Develops a plan to increase the number of licensed preschool teachers and qualified teacher assistants in Virginia for current and future needs; and
- Collaborates with school divisions, community colleges, and higher education to assess the current and future need for preschool teachers and qualified teacher assistants.
“The Board of Education has a critical role to play along with the Governor and General Assembly in determining how best to strengthen early childhood education in the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Emblidge. “It is the Board’s responsibility to ensure that state-supported preschool programs are academically sound and that young learners are taught by qualified teachers.”
“Preschool provides a foundation for achievement for thousands of Virginia children,” said Mrs. Saslaw. “I look forward to working with all Virginians who care about quality early childhood education and developing guidelines and policies that will make a difference for children.”
The Virginia Preschool Initiative (VPI), which was established by the General Assembly in 1995, provides funding for early childhood education programs for “at-risk” four-year-olds not served by federal programs, such as Head Start. In 2005, the General Assembly expanded the initiative to provide funding for 100 percent of at-risk children who otherwise would not have access to preschool. Initiative-funded preschool programs now serve approximately 11,000 children in 92 of the commonwealth Commonwealth’s 132 school divisions. Instruction in all VPI programs must be aligned with the state’s standards for early childhood education.
The Board of Education adopted Virginia’s Foundation Blocks for Early Learning in 2005. The preschool-standards define the skills and knowledge essential for success for children entering kindergarten and provide early childhood educators with a set of minimum objectives and research-based indicators of kindergarten readiness.
The work of the early childhood education committee will be supported by a $15,000 grant from the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) to help improve early learning experiences for children. Virginia was one of six states to receive early childhood education grants from NASBE. The grant program was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.