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Preschools to rally for fair testing in Palm Beach County on Saturday

VPK providers say the current testing/evaluation system is unfair
Posted: 4:37 PM, Jun 21, 2019
Updated: 2019-06-21 18:39:43-04
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PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — "We want fair testing."

It's a demand many preschool teachers have in Florida, and they're rallying Saturday in Palm Beach County to ask for a better testing and evaluation system.

The rally takes place at 9 a.m. Saturday. Click here for more information.

In 2017, the state changed the way it tests voluntary pre-kindergarten students, and evaluated VPK providers for their effectiveness.

The main problems?

Instead of using flip books (paper booklets) like the ones students used throughout the year for smaller assessments, the children are now given a computer test.

"You are teaching them one way and then when they go to kindergarten, it's done a different way," said Patty Paige in a Contact 5 investigation last month.

This final assessment is also given three months after children graduate VPK, when they are already in kindergarten.

"At home, they could be sitting on grandma's couch all summer watching TV and not doing anything educational. And then they forget everything they learn in VPK," said Paige.

The test measures whether a child is ready for kindergarten, and the scores link back to the providers.

Looking at the most recent scores (for the 2017-2018 school year), 64 percent of all VPK providers in Palm Beach County have failing grades, meaning their kids aren't passing. It's 65 percent in St. Lucie County and 54 percent in Martin County.

42 percent of children across the state failed.

VPK providers argue the scores aren't accurate, and legislators/education professionals tell Contact 5 there are questions about the validity of the scores. These scores affect not only a VPK providers' reputation and funding, but parents don't know how much their child is actually learning.

The state agrees the numbers aren't acceptable. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced in late May the state would start including what are called 'learning gains' in a providers' scores.

"We need to know where a child is to start and then you can measure how much they’ve progressed. And then you really have an evaluation of what VPK is doing to assist that child to get ready for kindergarten. That’s the purpose," said State Sen. Gayle Harrell of Stuart.

Providers said that's fine, but there's still the problem of testing the child at the start of kindergarten, instead of at the end of VPK.

It's something State Sen. Harrell pushed for in a bill earlier this year, along with legislators in the House. The bill didn't pass because of fights over funding.

"We all know that summer slide takes place, kids are out of school, they’re not really doing routine kind of things. That's why I really feel that assessment, ready for kindergarten, needs to happen right as they are finishing VPK," said State Sen. Harrell, who plans to introduce the bill again.

WPTV asked Gov. Ron DeSantis if he would commit to changing the timing of the test.

"I’ve said from the beginning on some of this stuff, I want to make sure what works. I’m happy to look at that. Richard Corcoran has done a lot of good things and he understands this stuff and it’s something that Richard, me, and our folks think is good, then I have no problem pulling the trigger on that. So yeah, I would say I’m definitely open to it," said Gov. DeSantis during an appearance in Palm Beach County in late May.

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