The Florida Voluntary Prekindergarten Program is a curriculum developed by the Florida Department of Children and Family Services to prepare children for kindergarten in preschool settings throughout the state. To serve as an instructor for the Florida VPK program, candidates must meet certain qualifications. The requirements for VPK teaching positions vary based upon prospective instructors' educational backgrounds.
The primary qualification for serving as a VPK teacher in Florida is credentialing through the National Credentialing Program of the Council for Professional Recognition as a preschool-level Child Development Associate. To qualify for the certification, candidates must be at least 18 years of age and hold a high school diploma or the equivalent. Candidates must have a minimum of 120 hours of postsecondary training in early childhood education as well as 480 hours of experience working with children ages 3 to 5 years. Eligible applicants undergo supervision from a representative of the NCPCPR, present a portfolio of their work and are evaluated by the parents of their former students. The NCPCPR decides whether or not to grant CDA certification based on the outcomes of these activities.
In addition to the CDA credential, candidates for VPK certification must meet other requirements. All candidates must participate in a childhood literacy training course approved by the state. In addition, prospective VPK teachers must pass a criminal background check, which involved professional fingerprinting. Those with a history of felony convictions as well as some misdemeanor convictions are generally ineligible to work as a VPK instructor. The Florida Department of Children and Family Services can also approve alternate certifications to the CDA credential on a case by case basis, allowing those without the standard certifications or a degree to still qualify to teach in the VPK program.
The Florida Department of Children and Family Services has separate criteria for prospective VPK instructors who possess a bachelor's degree. Such candidates can automatically qualify to work as a VPK teacher, provided their majors were in early childhood education, prekindergarten or primary education or family and consumer science. Any candidate who holds a bachelor's degree and a certificate to teach elementary education in the state of Florida is also automatically eligible, even if the certification is expired.
Separate eligibility criteria exist for prospective VPK teachers who have an associate degree as their highest completed level of education. Those who majored in child development or early education automatically qualify to serve as VPK instructors in Florida. Those with a degree in another major can also work in the field if they meet additional requirements. Such candidates need at least six credit hours of coursework in child development or early childhood education. In addition, they must have a minimum of 480 hours of work experience with children 8 years of age or younger.