TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed two education bills into law that aim to improve student literacy and early learning programs that get children ready for kindergarten.
One bill signed into law would establish the Division of Early Learning within the state's Department of Education as part of what the Republican governor said would produce “meaningful improvements to state accountability for early learning programs.”
The success rate of so-called “voluntary pre-kindergarten” programs had been under scrutiny because of data that shows many children are ill-prepared for kindergarten.
In fact, nearly 2,200 VPK providers — about a third of all such providers — were on probation because they did not meet minimum readiness rates, a state analysis showed. Overall, only about half the children they served were ready for kindergarten, according to testing data that took stock of their skills in such areas as math, literacy and critical thinking.
The governor says when he took office, kindergarten readiness was at 42 percent and that needs to get a lot higher.
Gov. DeSantis said he put in monitors last summer to prevent Florida's youngest learners from falling behind in school during the pandemic.
House Bill 419, that's now law, puts in place a plan to implement a new Pre-K grading system that can measure progress better and raise the bar on training Pre-K teachers.
"We'll be able to identify emerging literacy and mathematic skills deficiencies,” Gov. DeSantis said. “This will allow us to provide intensive personalized interventions for students who are at risk of falling behind."
House Bill 7011, which is now law, will also help set a statewide monitoring tool to gauge academic progress of kids from Pre-K through eighth grade, to get them ready for high school.
“Thousands of Florida families rely on our voluntary pre-K system to prepare their children to be ready for kindergarten,” he said. “This legislation for accountability will turn the tide for these families and their students, and they will make them more prepared than ever to enter kindergarten.”