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Vitti touts success of Duval's VPK program

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti highlighted the district's VPK program Tuesday during a meeting with school board members and community leaders.

The program is for 4 year olds at Title I schools, which are schools where at least 40 percent of students qualify as low-income families.

Students in VPK programs at Title I schools have demonstrated a substantial rate of success as compared to students attending other citywide or private VPK programs, or who did not attend VPK at all.

Sixty-two percent of students who attended a Title 1 VPK and then were in kindergarten last school year completed the year at or above the grade level in reading.

Only 44 percent of kindergartners from other VPK programs, and 54 percent of those who did not attend VPK met that same standard.

Sixty-one percent of these students scored at or above grade level in math, as compared to 42 percent from other VPK programs, and 53 percent without a VPK background.

At the first grade level, 51 percent of former Title I VPK students scored at or above grade level in reading.

Comparatively, 46 percent of students from other VPK programs scored at or above grade level.

Duval County Public Schools is the 20th largest school district in the nation.

Vitti, who toured one of the schools Tuesday morning, said the VPK data is a great accomplishment.

"Over the last three years now, almost 95 percent of our students are considered kindergarten ready," Vitti said. "That's especially important for our Title I schools, so that our students are ready when they start kindergarten, so we're not playing the catch up game."

Vitti said he feels these are significant accomplishments as the district continues to expand the popular program, almost doubling enrollment over three school years from 55 classrooms in 33 schools in 2012-13 to 77 classrooms in 57 schools this year.