The UVa School of Education Provides Exclusive Analysis for State Early Childhood Education Policy

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes thumbing through the state Budget Bill, HB1800 (Enrolled), one finds something other than what one is looking for.

I was examining the Education budget, and specifically the Department of Education, Central Office Operations, Item 137, Instructional Services (18100).

That is where the massive infusion of federal COVID education dollars are found. The instructional services budget increased from $32 million in FY 2021 (ends Jun 30, 2021) to almost $263 million in FY 2022. The increase is all federal dollars and all for Program Administration and Assistance for Instructional Services (18102).

Readers know I am a graduate of the University of Virginia, but sometimes that causes me some discomfort. This is one of those times.

The budget notes, which contain the earmarks, revealed that the University of Virginia’s notedly left wing School of Education and Human Development is totally in control of the academic research into what early childhood education should be in Virginia. It provides a closed-loop education policy shop for the entire state.

That is a fundamental mistake regardless of what you think of the school.

The eagerness by the state to take policy direction in the whole spectrum of early childhood education from a single source makes no common sense. To take it from an institution some of whose research is as controversial as that of Virginia’s School of Education is clearly wrong and frankly embarrassing.

It also provides an overwhelming indication as to the source of the Board of Education’s dreadful new Birth-to-Five Early Learning and Development Standards.

So let’s look at the budget details.

All of the earmarked policy development money in the instructional services budget went to UVa. No participation by the James Madison University College of Education Young Children’s Program, Virginia Tech’s School of Education with its special research credentials in rural education, William and Mary or Liberty University.

Liberty University offers 10 Early Childhood Ed degree programs  In 2019, 344 Liberty Early Childhood Ed students graduated with students earning 170 Bachelor’s degrees, 102 Associate’s degrees, 43 Master’s degrees, and 29 Certificates.

In that same year the University of Virginia graduated 33 Early Childhood Ed students, all with Bachelor’s degrees.

A reasonable person could argue that the UVa School of Education faculty is simply not close enough to the problems in early childhood education to be the sole arbiter for their solution.

These are those budget earmarks:

H. Out of this appropriation, $1,450,000 the first year and $1,750,000 the second year from the general fund is provided for the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program.”

a. Of this amount, $1,350,000 the first year and $1,350,000 the second year from the general fund is provided through the Department of Education to the University of Virginia to continue statewide implementation of the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program conducted in the fall, and to develop and implement a post-assessment upon the conclusion of the kindergarten year.

b. The Department of Education shall coordinate with the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning to ensure that all school divisions shall be required to have their kindergarten students assessed annually during the school year using the multi-dimensional kindergarten readiness assessment model. All school divisions shall be required to have their kindergarten students assessed with such model.

c. Of this amount, $300,000 the second year shall be allocated to the University of Virginia to support implementation of a pre-kindergarten version of the Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program for four-year-old children enrolled in publicly-funded pre-kindergarten programs. (Note, this is the only change made to the governor’s budget in this series of UVa earmarks.)

d. Further, out of this appropriation Of this amount, $100,000 the first year and $100,000 the second year from the general fund shall be allocated to University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning to provide training to school divisions annually on how to effectively use Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program data to improve instructional practices and student learning. Such teacher focused professional development and training shall be prioritized for the school divisions that would most benefit from state assistance in order to provide more time for classroom instruction and student learning.

e. The Department and the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning shall use the results of the multi-dimensional Virginia Kindergarten Readiness Program assessments to determine how well the Virginia Preschool Initiative promotes readiness in all key developmental domains assessed. The Department shall submit such findings using data from the prior year’s fall assessment to the Chairmen of House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees no later than October 1 each year.

I. Out of this appropriation, $700,000 the first year and  $700,000 the second year from the general fund is provided through the Department of Education to the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning to ensure that teachers in all select Virginia Preschool Initiative classrooms programs and public school-based preschool teachers publicly-funded early childhood programs receive appropriate individualized professional development training from professional development specialists to support quality teacher-child interactions and effective research-based curriculum implementation. Funding and professional development assistance shall be prioritized for teachers with Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) observation scores that did not meet the statewide minimum acceptable threshold standard established by the University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning and the Department of Education. The University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning and the Training and Technical Assistance Centers funded by the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) through the Department of Education shall coordinate to ensure alignment of professional development and supports for teachers of children with special needs. In the event the University of Virginia does not require all funds from this appropriation to provide professional development, unused funds may be reallocated to cover the cost of conducting CLASS observations in publicly-funded classrooms.

J. Out of this appropriation, $700,000 $350,000 the first year and $700,000 $350,000 the second year from the general fund is provided through the Department of Education to the University of Virginia to ensure that all select Virginia Preschool Initiative and public school-based preschool classroom publicly-funded early childhood programs have the quality of their teacher-child interactions assessed through a rigorous and research-based classroom observational instrument at least once every two years using the CLASS observational instrument for such assessment. The University of Virginia, with input from the Department of Education and the use of its detailed plan for such assessments, has established a statewide minimum acceptable threshold for the quality of teacher-child interactions for Virginia Preschool Initiative classroom programs, and classrooms that are assessed below the threshold receive additional technical assistance from the Department of Education and the University of Virginia. The threshold shall be reviewed and re-affirmed no later than the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. The University of Virginia’s Center for Advanced Study of Teaching and Learning shall submit a progress report on such classroom observations to the Chairmen of House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees no later than June 30 each year. In the event that the University of Virginia does not require all funds from this appropriation to conduct classroom observations, unused funds may be reallocated to cover the cost of providing professional development to classrooms.

N. The University of Virginia shall provide financial information for the last five fiscal years related to the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS) program to the Department of Education. Such information shall include revenues and expenditures by category, and shall differentiate revenues and expenditures related to the PALS program for the benefit of (i) Virginia public school students and (ii) all other students. The Department shall submit such information to the Chairs of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees no later than December 1, 2020.

I also found this:

“The Department of Education shall conduct a review of Family Life Education in the Commonwealth. Each school division shall report to the Department on whether the division offers Family Life Education; how medical accuracy of the curriculum is determined; whether the curriculum includes instruction on a range of contraceptive options; whether instruction is provided on sexual orientation and gender identity; whether the curriculum is provided by school division staff or external organizations; and how often Family Life Education is provided. The Department shall also use the Youth Risk Behavior Survey to examine and report on any correlation that may exist between student behavior and the type of Family Life Education offered in the division. The Department shall submit a report by November 1, 2021, to the Governor and Chairmen of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees. The report shall also include best practices for teacher training and parent and community involvement.”

That instruction was not in the Governor’s budget amendments. It was added by the General Assembly. You can make your own judgments of what the “report” will lead to.

Certainly my alma mater would be proud to help.

If the Ed school does not have a Center for Family Life Education, it can have one up and running by the time the next budget is drafted or next week, whichever is sooner.

 

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