Data Needed For Vermont’s Universal Pre-K Implementation

 A new Vermont law requires school districts to offer high-quality pre-kindergarten education, but there are no reliable and up-to-date town population estimates or projections to help determine how many eligible children might use these programs. That’s just one example of how gaps in data are hindering the successful implementation and monitoring of Act 166, Vermont’s new universal pre-K law.

The pre-K data gaps, as well as data assets, are the subject of a new technical report, Mind the Gap: Data Asset and Gap Analysis Report, by Kathleen E. Paterson, Co-Director of Vermont Insights, and published today by Building Bright Futures. This report is the first in a series of data gap and asset analyses that will address essential questions about Vermont child, family and community well-being.

This report details data assets, gaps and strategies to satisfy the data requirements of 2014’s universal pre-K law. The law requires data to answer key questions, including, “Are pre-K eligible children spending 10 hours or more per week for 35 weeks during the school year in a prequalified pre-K education program as the law intended?” and, “Are the children enrolled ‘school-ready, proficient in numeracy and literacy’ when they enter kindergarten as the law intended?’”

“The important finding in this report is that Vermont currently does not collect all the data needed to implement the new universal pre-K law,” said Paterson. “However, we also find some of the data gaps are in the process of being filled, and other gaps can be filled by bridging data islands.”

What are some of the other data gaps hindering Vermont’s new pre-K law? Here are a few of the report’s findings:

  • There is no direct measure of the capacity of early care and education programs in school-operated, Head Start and private programs.
  • Vermont does know the number of children enrolled in pre-K but does not have a precise measure of the number of hours each child attends, therefore can’t report if children receive the required minimum of 10 hours per week.
  • There is no universal or timely measure of parents’ demand for preference, type or location of early care and education programs.

“If we measure what matters and, as a community, tell the story behind the data, then we will be in a much better position to make a difference in children’s lives,” says Mark Sustic, consultant to the Vermont Community Preschool Collaborative and committee member of the Vermont Insights advisory group, Building Bright Futures Data and Evaluation Committee.

The committee has a number of topics to choose from for the next Mind the Gap report. These include listening to parents about their desires and concerns about their child’s health and development; developmental screening and referral outcomes; opiate impact on children, families and communities; ethnicity and diversity; parental incarceration and financial investments in children and families.

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 Building Bright Futures is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, formalized by Vermont Act 104 in 2010 to advise the State of Vermont on early childhood matters through its statewide network, data and policy recommendations.

Vermont Insights, a project of Building Bright Futures, is an easy to access and publicly available online data commons for all Vermonters. It includes a wide range of population-based data from the economy to demographics to early childhood. Visit the website at vermontinisghts.org.

 

 

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