RICHMOND—First Lady Pamela Northam yesterday announced that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), in partnership with the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation (VECF) and the University of Virginia (UVA), received a one-year $9.9 million competitive federal Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.
These federal funds will be used by VDOE and its partners to support statewide initiatives that bolster Virginia’s early childhood system. These initiatives include producing a statewide needs assessment and strategic plan, aligning early learning standards, and developing kindergarten-readiness tools for teachers and families.
“Every child in Virginia is capable of entering kindergarten ready with the skills they need to succeed in school, regardless of who they are or where they live,” said First Lady of Virginia Pamela Northam. “This grant will enable our innovative local leaders and teachers to build skills, engage families in their children’s learning and development, and measure progress all while being financially rewarded for their efforts.”
Nearly $4 million of this funding will directly support early childhood educators across the Commonwealth. The funds will support initiatives in ten innovative communities to unify child care, Head Start, and pre-K at the local level. To accelerate the implementation of higher standards and reduce turnover, leaders and teachers in these communities who agree to strengthen standards, participate in trainings, and improve quality will receive financial incentives at the end of the grant.
In these ten early adopter communities, this funding will allow Virginia to evaluate 1,000 publicly funded infant, toddler, and pre-K classrooms, to better understand the quality landscape. This effort will be unique in that it will work to involve all infant, toddler, and preschool classrooms in publicly funded early childhood programs, including family day homes, child care, Head Start and schools. Furthermore, the communities will conduct focus groups and surveys to gather insights from the families of Virginia’s youngest learners.
These evaluations will help determine which improvement supports are most helpful and how to best inform families about early childhood options. Best practices and models can then be scaled statewide and sustained using existing funds more effectively. Local communities will serve as leaders for the state, helping to identify what steps and practices are needed to unify and strengthen the birth-to-five early childhood system.
“Working closely with partners and local communities, Virginia can strengthen teaching, more deeply engage families and increase the number of children who enter kindergarten with the skills needed to be successful,” said State Superintendent of Instruction Dr. James Lane.
VDOE will serve as the lead agency in collaboration with VECF and UVA to implement the efforts made possible by the Preschool Development Grant. VECF will be a partner focused on managing the needs assessment, strategic plans and community pilots. Partners at UVA will utilize their expertise by supporting community efforts to evaluate classrooms, improve quality, engage families and educators and assess the impact of this work. This partnership will seek input from a diverse group of stakeholders in roundtable discussions across the state and will receive advice from the School Readiness Committee.
“With this funding, Virginia can accelerate the development of an equitable mixed-delivery system that delivers stable, affordable and quality early childhood care and education for the state’s families and children, particularly those who are most vulnerable and will benefit the most,” Bill Ermatinger, Board Chair of Virginia Early Childhood Foundation and Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of Huntington Ingalls Industries.