by Coy Holcombe.
Last week, I briefly mentioned that there would be changes in the rules governing the pre-k grant program. This program allows EISD to basically receive funding for a full-day pre-k program. Normally, the state only provides funding for 1/2 day pre-k program. With the pre-k grant, the state still provides funding for 1/2 day attendance and the grant provides the funding for the other 1/2 day. This enables EISD to provide a full-day pre-k program for our 4 year olds.
The new rules were released last Friday. I will attempt to summarize the rules below, and I will provide a link that will take you to the complete text of the proposed rules.
The basic premise behind the new rules is to allow districts that do not have a full-day pre-k program to apply for funding to start a full-day program. The state is targeting the districts that do not have a full-day program and that are performing below the state standard on the state assessments in third grade (the TAKS test). The new rules provide three different tiers of funding: Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3.
Tier 1 funding will have the highest percentage of available funds. This tier will target schools whose performance on the grade 3 assessments is "substantially below the state average, as defined in the grant application, for the last three consecutive years and either has not previously received a pre-k grant or did not participate in the last round of pre-k grant funding.
Tier 2 will receive a percentage of available funding. This tier takes in schools that received grant funds in the latest round of funding. The schools funded under Tier 2 must "demonstrate improved student performance results for the last three consecutive years on the Grade 3 assessment instruments" and have "demonstrated successful implementation of a prekindergarten program that includes proven readiness components".
The final tier, Tier 3 will also receive a percentage of funding. This tier takes into account schools that received funds from the latest round of funding and "has been substantially below the state average, as defined in the grant application, for the last three consecutive years".
So, where does EISD fall in these three tiers? Well, certainly, we would not qualify in either Tier 1 or Tier 3 because we have received grant funds and our performance in grade 3 is not below, but above, the state average. In Tier 2, it states that a district must show "demonstrated improved student performance results for the last three consecutive years on the Grade 3 assessment instruments". Because our scores in the third grade have been substantially above the state average, it may be difficult to show this improved performance. Over the last three years, our passing rate on the TAKS reading test in third grade have been 98%, 99%, and 96%. In the 3rd grade TAKS math, our passing percentages have been 91%, 87%, and 91%. When your scores are this high, it is difficult to show improvement.
Since there is no tier that takes into account high achievement being maintained over a multiple year period, it may be that EISD does not qualify for any pre-k grant funds because our scores on the third grade TAKS tests were too good. It appears that the new rules will not provide funds for a district such as EISD that has done everything that the state has asked and has produced scores above and beyond the state average on a consistent basis.
It needs to be noted that these are just proposed rules at this time. Right now, TEA is taking public comments on the proposed rules. Anyone may submit comments to TEA regarding these rules. I encourage everyone interested in maintaining our full-day pre-k program to submit your comments to TEA. I believe the bottom line is that you do not build up new pre-k programs by tearing down successful pre-k programs. You may submit comments to TEA by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may view the proposed rules by going to this website: