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The purpose of Iowa's Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP) for Four-Year-Old Children is to provide an opportunity for all young children in the State of Iowa to enter school ready to learn by expanding voluntary access to quality preschool curricula for all four-year-old children. The allocation of funds for the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program is intended to improve access to quality early childhood education and provide a predictable, equitable, and sustainable funding method to increase the number of children participating in quality programs. Therefore, the four-year-old preschool funds are intended to increase the number of children participating in quality programs.
In the 2023-2024 school year, 322 of 325 districts participate in the program. 27,088 children were served in the 2022-2023 school year.
Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program School Districts and Buildings 2021-2022 - A list of Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program sites based on districts' Fall 2021 reporting. Contact the school district for most current information on classroom locations and space available.
Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program, Head Start Programs and Shared Visions Map - A map showing areas in which the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program, Shared Visions Preschool Program and/or the Head Start Program are offered.
The following guidance can assist participating school districts and community partners:
Legal Requirements and Reports
The Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year-Old Children was established May 10, 2007. The program provides an opportunity for four-year-old children in the State of Iowa to enter school ready to learn by expanding voluntary access to quality preschool programming.
The Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program rules are found in 281--Iowa Administrative Code 16. These rules provide guidance to school districts in the implementation of the Statewide Voluntary Preschool for Four-Year-Old Children created in Iowa Code chapter 256c by Iowa Acts 2007 (HF 877).
See also the Early Childhood Education section of the most current Annual Condition of Education Report.
Iowa Code section 279.60 requires districts to assess all preschool children with the GOLD® online assessment and maintain local agreements with Teaching Strategies, LLC. under the GOLD State Service Umbrella Agreement. This includes any preschool-aged child enrolled by a parent in a district program.
The Iowa Department of Education has a statewide license for MyTeachingStrategies™ through an umbrella agreement with Teaching Strategies, LLC. This agreement provides the GOLD® online assessment system and reduces the subscriber fees for all state and federally funded early childhood programs and services, including Iowa school districts, their community partners, Shared Visions, as well as Head Start, Area Education Agencies and other programs located in the state of Iowa. This web‐based online system allows programs to assess child progress based on research‐based widely held expectations from birth through third grade. Reports may be generated at the individual, group, and statewide level.
To subscribe to MyTeachingStrategies™ and access GOLD®, complete the online application form.
Iowa GOLD Online Procedures Nov. 2019 - Teachers, practitioners, and administrators are encouraged to use the Iowa GOLD Procedures document to assist them in setting up and using GOLD Online.
Iowa GOLD Child Transfer Form (1-13-2020)
Discussion Prompts, Sample Activities, and Observational Tasks - A tool for educators to support families in the assessment process.
The following are guiding practices that can assist participating school districts and community partners.
Iowa Early Learning Standards/Child Standards
Participating school districts in the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year-Old Children will follow the Iowa Early Learning Standards. These standards identify the knowledge, skills, motivation, and attitudes needed by preschoolers that lead to success as students enter school and as adults. The developmental areas are as follows:
- Social and emotional development
- Physical well-being and motor development
- Approaches to learning
- Social studies
- Creative arts
- Communication, language, and literacy
Programs participating in Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year-Old Children must meet one of the following program standards. Each standard is indicative of high-quality programming efforts. Preschool programs must meet one of the following program standards upon implementation of the SWVPP.
- Head Start Program Performance Standards
- National Association of Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Early Learning Program Accreditation Standards and Assessment Items
- Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (IQPPS)
Staff Qualifications and Staff Development
Participating school district teachers will receive professional development focusing on areas appropriate to the role of an early childhood teacher and implemented in accordance with Iowa Code section 284.6. School districts will also make appropriate professional development opportunities available to community partner teachers of the preschool program who are not employed by the district. District and community partner support staff working in four-year-old preschool classrooms should also be provided opportunities for staff development in early childhood education. These opportunities are to be addressed in the school district career development plan and follow the Iowa Professional Development Model.
Numerous studies have found that the education levels of preschool teachers and specialized training in early childhood education predict teaching quality and positively affect children's achievement of social, emotional, language, literacy and cognitive skills. The Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center provides many resources for supporting effective teaching practices, including a Framework for Effective Practice, which was developed by the National Center on Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning.
Preschool Teacher Assistant Qualifications
The type of preschool program and required program standards determine the type of qualifications required for teaching assistants. This document provides options that are open to teaching assistants for meeting state and federal requirements.
Qualifications for Preschool Teacher Assistants (2020-08-18)
Iowa’s school districts and their community partners operating Statewide Voluntary Preschool Programs (SWVPP) and preschool classrooms providing early childhood special education (ECSE) instructional services are required to demonstrate that the programs are meeting one of the approved sets of program standards and criteria. Iowa’s school districts and their community partners that have adopted the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards (IQPPS) are encouraged to utilize the IQPPS documents and resources on the Early Childhood Standards webpage to engage in a continuous improvement process to design and support the understanding of current practices, strengths, and challenges in implementing the standards and criteria.
Additionally, the school year following the approval to participate in the SWVPP, the Iowa Department of Education Early Childhood Consultants conduct an on-site visit to districts that have adopted the IQPPS to verify the SWVPP and preschool classrooms providing ECSE services are meeting the IQPPS and criteria. During the visit the team conducts a family interview, classroom observation(s) and facilities tour; as well as, reviews classroom portfolio(s), the program portfolio, staff files, and child files.
Districts will annually* submit IQPPS evidence in the Preschool Desk Audit in CASA between September 15 and December 15. Every school district that is implementing the IQPPS at any location, including community partners, will submit IQPPS evidence. Only Districts that are having an onsite IQPPS visit during the current or following school year or are following Head Start Program Performance Standards or are NAEYC accredited across all classrooms will be exempt from submitting IQPPS evidence. Guidance for IQPPS evidence to submit and related archived webinars are posted on the Differentiated Accountability webpage.
*The 2019-2020 Desk Audits were closed “as is” and previously all items were ported forward into the 2020-2021 Desk Audit. If your district's 2020-2021 Desk Audit has a status of “Action Required,” the district will be required to address the previously unaccepted items beginning September 15. If the 2020-2021 Desk Audit is marked “State Review Complete - Submission Final,” the information provided during the 2019-2020 school year was acceptable and no further action is required during 2020-2021. No new items will be added to the 2020-2021 Desk Audit.
The Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year-Old Children requires participating school districts to maintain local agreements with Teaching Strategies, LLC. under the GOLD State Service Umbrella Agreement and assess all preschool children with the GOLD online assessment. This includes any preschool-aged child enrolled by a parent in a district program.
Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program for Four-Year-Old Children requires participating school districts to adopt a research or evidence-based curricula that is developmentally appropriate, including age appropriate, individually appropriate, and culturally appropriate. In order to meet the needs of the diverse population of children, families, and communities, curricula should be culturally sensitive and flexible.
The Iowa Department of Education does not endorse any one preschool curriculum. This is a locally determined decision; districts should ensure curriculum meets described criteria.
The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) outlines dimensions to consider when making decisions about preschool curriculum in this Policy Brief.
Best Practices in Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation
The National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has a Position Statement on Early Childhood Curriculum, Assessment, and Program Evaluation to guide implementers of early care and education programs.
Hiring Licensed Teachers
The TeachIowa.gov website is an avenue to recruit licensed teachers for the preschool program:
- School districts can post job vacancies and search applicants' resumes
- Early childhood teachers interested in these jobs can search for jobs and share information with School Districts through the online application