Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program ranked nation’s best for 14th straight year
Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced that the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) has ranked Alabama First Class Pre-K as the nation’s highest quality state pre-kindergarten program for the 14th consecutive year.
In a statement, Ivey said, “Alabama First Class Pre-K is once again proving to be successful in providing a solid foundation for our youngest learners to be successful in school and life.”
Last year, a major study concluded that students who participate in the voluntary pre-k program are more likely to be proficient in math and reading, with no evidence of fade out of the benefits over time. These long-term results hold true even after the study controlled for student demographics and other variables such as poverty.
Alabama First Class Pre-K in 2019 also received its largest-ever single year funding increase (recommended by the governor and approved by the legislature), which expanded pre-k access to more than 38% of four-year-olds in the state while continuing to meet all 10 NIEER quality standards benchmarks in the 2019-2020 school year.
The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, which administers the First Class Pre-K program through the Office of School Readiness, requires all First Class Pre-K lead teachers to have a bachelor’s degree, at a minimum, and provides salary parity with K-3 teachers.
“Now, more than ever, First Class Pre-K has the important responsibility to ensure our youngest learners have a strong start to their educational journey,” stated Jeana Ross, secretary of Early Childhood Education. “With the support of the Alabama Legislature and the strong leadership of Governor Kay Ivey, Alabama continues to lead the nation in growth and quality. Prioritizing a high quality pre-k year has an transformational, positive impact on equity and achievement gaps.”
The Ivey administration has made First Class Pre-K a key priority of her “Strong Start, Strong Finish” comprehensive education initiative, with the governor’s ultimate goal still being to expand the world-class pre-k program to serve up to 70% of eligible four-year-olds.
“From our state’s historic investment in pre-K to Secretary Jeana Ross’s unmatched leadership, Alabama is setting the standard for excellence in early childhood education around the country,” Ivey added. “We can all be proud that Alabama continues to lead the nation in high quality early childhood education.”
Ivey has proposed a $25 million expansion for the program under the Education Trust Fund budget to be considered during the current regular session of the Alabama legislature, however the coronavirus pandemic and related economic shutdown could affect that proposal’s viability.
“Alabama continues to lead the nation in high quality pre-K,” commented NIEER founder and senior co-director Steven Barnett, Ph.D. “The state has been committed to expanding access and must continue to invest more resources and expand access so more children benefit from this quality program.”
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn