Yearbook says West Virginia’s Pre-K program ranks highly

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Yearbook says West Virginia’s Pre-K program ranks highly
By Matt Maccaro in News | May 13, 2015 at 7:47PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s Preschool Program ranks favorably nationwide according to The State of Preschool 2014 Yearbook released by the National Institute for Early Education Research.

State Chief Academic Officer Clayton Burch said the rankings show West Virginia’s early education program in a very favorable way.

“We’re fifth in the nation for four-year-old access. Even though we don’t have a three-year-old public pre-K system we’re actually seventh in the nation for three-year olds,” Burch said. “And we don’t do too shabby on investing dollars into preschool either.”

Burch said they saw improvement with the program years ago, but the problem then was that not enough children were enrolled.

“We asked if our kids were coming to school better prepared with their reading and their math skills,” he said. “We saw initial improvements there but the problem was at the time only 30 to 40 percent of the kids were in the system.”

Burch said it would be an adjustment to shift to a five-day model to adhere to Senate Bill 359. He said 85 percent of the classrooms currently operate under a four-day model.  Beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, all programs will operate full day (300 minutes per day) for at least 160 days per school year. The program remains voluntary.

“The Pre-K program is voluntary; there is no requirement for you to send your child. Compulsory school-age in the state of West Virginia is not until age six,” Burch explained. “You have to finish a kindergarten program in order to enter first-grade. We usually see our Pre-K program ranging from 15 to 16 thousand children.”

The Yearbook indicated that about 70 percent of four-year-olds in West Virginia are now enrolled in the state’s Universal Pre-K Program.