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PRESS RELEASE

March 15, 2005

Vivian Myrtetus
(850) 245-0413

Florida State Board of Education Approves Voluntary Prekindergarten Standards

MIAMI — The Florida State Board of Education today voted unanimously to approve standards associated with the state's Voluntary Prekindergarten Education (VPK) Program. Standards include child performance, curricula and emergent literacy standards which will serve as guidelines for providers participating in the VPK Program.

Recently, the Department of Education convened a panel of early learning experts to develop recommendations which were the basis of the approved standards. The panel's recommendations were shared with members of the Early Learning Coalitions, potential providers and parents. The panel's recommendations were also posted to the Department of Education's web site and interested parties provided input and recommendations, which were incorporated into the final proposed standards.

"These research based standards provide a solid foundation for a success Voluntary Prekindergarten program," said State Board Chairman Phil Handy. "By addressing the most critical aspects of early learning, in particular emergent literacy, we are ensuring Florida's children will have the keys to succeed."

The child performance standards adopted today emphasize emergent literacy, a new component, cognitive development and general knowledge, which include mathematical and scientific thinking, social studies, the arts and motor development, along with physical health, approaches to learning, social and emotional development, and language and communication.

"The introduction of emergent literacy as a core component is critical," said Education Commissioner John L. Winn. "Research indicates that building a basis for reading knowledge at a young age sets the stage for academic achievement."

The emergent literacy course standards for VPK instructors address the age-appropriate progress of developing emergent literacy skills, including oral communication, knowledge of print and letters, phonemic and phonological awareness and vocabulary and comprehension development. The Department of Education will now develop a five-hour course on emergent literacy that will be available statewide at no cost by October 1, 2005.

The Board also approved the curricula standards, which supplies a framework for providers to develop or select their curricula. The Department will work with the Florida Center for Reading Research to make available information on reviewed curricula.

To learn more about the approved standards or the Department's VPK program, please visit our web site at www.myfloridaeducation.com/earlylearning.