The most recent updates to Policy 2525: West Virginia’s Universal Access to a Quality Early Education System support quality in the classroom and consistency among the programs across the state. They also strengthen personnel standards and continue to support collaboration. The major changes include increasing the minimum participation from two days a week to three days a week during the school year and limiting teacher caseloads to 30 students. The policy also requires five-year-olds to be assessed to determine if Pre-k placement is the best option for them when a parent requests Pre-k enrollment instead of kindergarten. It also authorizes the development of the permanent authorization credential for community partners with teachers who are not certified and requires all screenings to be completed using the HealthCheck protocol to create standardization of screenings and physicals.
West Virginia has been recognized nationally for a state law that requires universal preschool be available to all of the state’s 4-year-olds by the 2012-2013 school year. Half of the programs will be in collaborative settings with Head Start, child care and private programs.
In addition, the state has been singled out for providing better access to preschool programs and dedicating more dollars to the effort than most other states in the country.
“Educational and political leaders across West Virginia have made early childhood education a priority,” said state Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine. “They know it’s a good investment. In fact, Marshall University researchers calculated that for every $1 West Virginia spends on good early childhood development, the state saves $5.20.”
Research also shows that high quality preschool improves high school graduation and college attendance rates, employment and earnings and lessens future crime and delinquency. It also helps fight unhealthy behaviors like smoking and drug use.
“We know the brain develops more in the first five years of life than at any other time,” said Cathy Jones, early childhood coordinator for the West Virginia Department of Education. “Pre-k is a time for enormous acquisition of knowledge, a time in life when children develop a sense of right and wrong, good and bad. Without a good foundation, we spend the rest of their education trying to repair the damage.”
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