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WATCH: Back to School/Early childhood education

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 12:36 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - As part of a daily back-to-school series the week of August 9, WDBJ7′s Leanna Scachetti is talking about early childhood education, and changes in Virginia.

Virginia has been and continues to make big changes when it comes to early childhood education.

When it comes to Virginia’s newest kids on the playground, kindergarteners, state leaders say many of them are way behind in key literacy, math and social skills.

In fact, according to the Virginia Department of Education 45 percent of kindergarteners, almost half, come to the first day of school under prepared.

That percentage is even greater for kids from lower income families, at 55 percent, and those with special needs, 66 percent.

“And this is concerning because we know that when kids have the opportunity to come to school fully ready, then they are prepared for success, right? They are starting at the starting line. For kids who don’t, they are staring a little bit behind and playing catch up from day one,” said Jenna Conway, Deputy Superintendent for Early Childhood Education for the Virginia Department of Education, or V.D.O.E.

Conway said part of the problem lies in the rising cost of child care.

“And in many cases, infant and toddler care can cost more than college,” she said. “And there are far fewer resources to help you pay for it.”

Another issue, she says, are the variations in quality, and the fact that oversight for early childhood learning centers was not unified.

But now, V.D.O.E. is taking lead for early childhood education. It’s taking responsibility of licensing facilities over from the Department of Social Services.

Financial assistance eligibility has also expanded, which, for now, will be available to job seekers.

“So to help the Commonwealth recover from the pandemic, we’ve now made families eligible even when you’re looking for work,” she said.

Plus, this fall, they’ll work to unify early childhood education in all forms , working to bring them up to a new expectation for learning.

“And so we will be out in our infant and toddler and preschool classrooms, observing how well the educators support children, how often they’re talking and engaging children with different types of learning activities, that are going on part of our broader effort to help really improve and strengthen quality across all of our settings.”

You can learn more about the transition through Child Care VA.

Watch our WDBJ7+ conversation with Jenna Conway from the Virginia Department of Education here:

Each roundtable this week will be at 12:30 p.m. on WDBJ7 Facebook and wdbj7.com.

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