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Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program leads nation in quality for 18th consecutive year

Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE)  announced that Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is once again recognized for the highest quality in today’s release of the national report, The 2023 State of Preschool.

Alabama is one of only five states in the country to meet 10 of 10 research-based quality standard benchmarks for 2023 and is the only state in the nation to have achieved this distinction for 18 consecutive years, Ivey’s office announced.

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) tracks preschool enrollment, funding and quality across states. The 2023 State of Preschool Yearbook finds Alabama is one of only five states in the country to meet 10 of 10 research-based quality benchmarks making it one of the highest quality pre-kindergarten programs in the nation.

According to the program’s website, the goal of First Class Pre-K is to ensure children are equipped with school readiness. The state defines school readiness “as a condition whereby children enter school with an enthusiasm for learning, an ability to function in a social setting, age-appropriate communication and problem-solving skills, and optimal health.”

“Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program continues to show its effectiveness in giving our youngest learners a strong start in both school and life,” said Governor Ivey. “Alabama has established itself as a national leader in early childhood education and has set a standard of excellence by making significant investments in pre-k.”

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Acting Secretary Jan Hume said, “This recognition from NIEER reflects the dedication and hard work of our staff and partners who support high-quality learning experiences for our state’s 4-year-old children. We are honored by this recognition and recognize that we must continue the work to improve and expand quality early learning to support children and families across our state.”

“In this year’s education budget, I have requested funding to continue providing access to this program while also waving tuition and fee costs to parents,” said Governor Ivey. “We can all be proud that Alabama leads the nation in ensuring high quality while expanding program access to Alabama’s 4-year-olds.”

Alabama First Class Pre-K offers 4-year-olds in each of the state’s 67 counties access to prekindergarten programs in their communities. Research on the program’s long-term impacts shows that children who participated in First Class Pre-K are more likely to be successful throughout their school careers across multiple domains of learning. Participants in the program go on to have higher rates of college graduation, higher average salaries, and lower rates of committing crimes.

The program has grown substantially over the last decade, going from serving 5,000 Alabama 4-year-olds in 2013 to serving over 24,000 in 2023. Per the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, roughly 50% of Alabama 4-year-olds had access to the program during the 2022-2023 school year.

Grayson Everett is the state and political editor for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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