1 year ago

Study: Benefits for Alabama’s First Class Pre-K students do not ‘fade out’ over time

An exciting new study has shown that students who participate in Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program are more likely to be proficient in math and reading. Researchers also found that their work indicated “no evidence of fade out of the benefits of First Class Pre-K over time.”

The study was released Wednesday to coincide with Department of Early Childhood Education Secretary Jeana Ross announcing that new pre-k classroom funding applications for the 2019-2020 school year are now open.

In a letter, Ross noted, “For the 12th consecutive year, Alabama First Class Pre-K is the highest quality, state-funded pre-kindergarten program in the country as recognized by the National Institute for Early Education Research quality benchmarks. There are currently 1,045 First Class Pre-K classrooms statewide serving almost 19,000 four-year-olds, reaching 32% of Alabama’s eligible four-year-old population.”

Diverse delivery programs in all 67 counties across the Yellowhammer State are encouraged to apply.

This includes childcare centers, public school systems, faith-based centers, college and university lab schools, private schools, community organizations, military childcare centers and other providers of preschool.

You can learn more about the new classroom funding application here.

The newly released study was conducted as part of the multi-disciplinary First Class Pre-K research evaluation team’s “ongoing, rigorous assessment of the program’s effectiveness.” This team includes faculty and staff from the University of Alabama (UAB) School of Public Health, UAB School of Education and the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.

The study concluded the following:

Students who received First Class Pre-K were statistically significantly more likely to be proficient in math and in reading compared to students who did not receive First Class Pre-K. These results persist after controlling for factors that have been shown to influence academic performance, including poverty, gender, race/ethnicity, classroom/school factors, and time. Further, effects are independent from within-school variation in the receipt of First-Class Pre-K, eliminating the potential for confounding from between-school differences in neighborhood socioeconomic status.

The analyses also indicate no evidence of fade out of the benefits of First Class Pre-K over time. These findings are especially meaningful considering that the observations are for students in 3rd-7th grades, representing persistence of the benefits of First Class Pre-K well beyond the end of the program and into later grades where some other programs have shown diminished academic impact.

You can read more about the study’s findings and methodology here.

A separate report released this fall named Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program as America’s best once again, lauding the state-funded program as the “only pre-kindergarten program in the country that comes close to having all the elements of a strong pre-k program.”

In its “Implementing 15 Essential Elements for High-Quality Pre-K: An Updated Scan of State Polices” report, the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) found that Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program fully met 14 of the report’s 15 “essential elements” characterizing high-quality programs, and it partially met the 15th element, too.

Included among these benchmarks were measurements assessing a program’s leadership, early learning policies and program practices. Alabama’s performance in meeting the essential elements exceeded the national average by more than 233 percent.

Governor Kay Ivey has been a staunch supporter of the First Class Pre-K program, as part of her “Strong Start, Strong Finish” education initiative.

This past spring, the Alabama Legislature approved Ivey’s request for the program’s largest-ever single-year budget increase – an extra $18.5 million for First Class Pre-K in the 2019 program budget, bringing its annual total to $96 million.

“Having a strong start to one’s educational journey is critical to having a strong finish when it comes time to enter the workforce,” Ivey said in a release at the time. “Alabama’s voluntary First Class Pre-K program is, without question, the best in the nation. I am proud that we can increase the reach of this important educational opportunity, and I look forward to continuing to work with the Legislature to further expand the availability of voluntary Pre-K.”

In November, Ivey hosted a packed Early Childhood Education Leadership Forum, where the governor reaffirmed that she wanted to see continued progress moving forward in the early stage of education, including Pre-K.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

3 mins ago

Alabama lawmakers renew push to create lifetime concealed carry permits

Members of the Alabama legislature introduced bills this week that would create a standard, statewide process for any individual that wants a concealed carry permit for a firearm. Under the proposed system, permits would be issued for terms of one year, five years or the remaining lifetime of the permit holder.

State Representative Proncey Robertson (R-Trinity) is sponsoring the effort in the House, and State Senator Randy Price (R-Opelika) is carrying the Senate version. Robertson spent over 25 years as a police officer in North Alabama.

The cost of a lifetime permit would be $200, with a reduced fee for senior citizens. Robertson wrote on Facebook that active and retired military service members would pay nothing. Currently, Alabamians can purchase a permit from their county sheriff’s office for up to five years. The price of a permit varies by county.

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Sheriff’s offices often benefit from the revenues brought in by pistol permits. Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran once told AL.com that his department depends on the income from the permits “for a number of things.”

Various efforts by Republican lawmakers to alter Alabama’s gun laws have run out of steam before becoming law in recent years.

As part of the new permitting system proposed this week, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) would have a new role in streamlining the permit process and administering background checks.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has come out in favor of the effort, telling members they should contact their state legislators “to secure passage of this critical legislation.”

“The NRA strongly supports this streamlined permitting process,” NRA Alabama State Director Art Thomm told the Alabama Political Reporter.

“Not only would it bring much-needed 21st century technology to Alabama’s antiquated system, but it would be the first time law-abiding Alabamians were given the option for a lifetime concealed carry permit,” he added.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

23 mins ago

Doug Jones: Schiff speech, impeachment evidence presented by House Dems ‘compelling’

In a video tweeted out by his office on Friday, Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) opined that evidence is “continuing to mount” against President Donald Trump as the impeachment trial unfolds in the Senate.

The video, lasting just over five minutes and 30 seconds, started with Jones praising the Thursday speech given by Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA), one of the lead House impeachment managers.

Jones used Schiff’s line of, “In America, right matters,” as a theme for the video and even turned it into a hashtag when sharing the video on his personal Twitter account.

Alabama’s junior senator opened the video by reciting the line twice, placing heavy emphasis on it. He would also later close the video with the line.

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“That was the most compelling statement to me yesterday,” Jones remarked about the line.

Senator Jones’ newfound usage of #rightmatters may very well remind Alabama voters of what he tweeted when announcing his “nay” vote on confirming Justice Brett Kavanaugh: #RightSideofHistory.

Jones in his Friday video went on to say about the case presented by House Democrats, “Yesterday’s evidence was pretty compelling. It continues to get compelling.”

“Remember we have talked significantly about direct evidence,” he continued. “We have heard a lot of direct evidence on the president’s abuse of power. We’ve heard it from witnesses who talked to the president. We’ve seen press conferences. We’ve seen text messages. We’ve seen emails. Not all of those emails were provided by the administration; they were done pursuant to a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request and a lawsuit. But we have them nonetheless.”

“And the circumstantial evidence begins to mount,” Jones added.

He then recited the definition of circumstantial evidence as, “Proof of a chain of facts and circumstances that tend to prove or disprove a fact.”

“That is continuing to mount,” Jones asserted.

The senator commented that he is “anxious to see” what the president’s legal team will “say and do” when given the chance to present their case.

Later in the video, Jones renewed his call for Democrats to be able to call witnesses during the trial. However, he mocked the idea of “reciprocity,” the concept that Republicans would be able to call witnesses if Democrats are allowed to, as “silly.”

Jones specifically said that Hunter Biden should not be allowed to be called as a witness. Jones has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential bid, saying that he would ultimately back whomever the Democrats nominate against Trump, no matter how radical that individual is.

Watch the full video:

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

45 mins ago

Alabama State Port Authority signs concession agreement for automobile RO/RO terminal

The Alabama State Port Authority and AutoMOBILE International Terminal (AIT) this week signed a concession agreement for the $60 million automobile roll on/roll off (RO/RO) terminal currently under construction.

AIT will operate the facility when completed in early 2021.

The agreement was signed at the Port of Mobile. AIT is a joint venture between Terminal Zarate, S.A., a Grupo Murchison company headquartered in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Neltume Ports, headquartered in Santiago, Chile.

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“We’re extremely pleased to see these world class services companies invest in both our region and our port. AIT’s investment will create a new U.S. gateway for shipping finished automobiles for both U.S. and global manufacturing and consumer markets,” James K. Lyons, director and CEO of the Alabama State Port Authority, said in a statement.

The under-construction 57-acre (23.06 hectares) terminal is located on the ASPA’s main port multimodal complex, and when completed, will have an annual throughput of 150,000 units. The facility is located on Mobile Harbor and is serviced by five Class I railroads and a rail ferry service with connections throughout North America and immediate, unencumbered access to major U.S. interstate and highway systems.

The Port Authority and AIT over two years ago signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the automobile RO/RO terminal.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Doug Jones: Jeff Sessions’ recusal ‘about the only thing I think he did right as attorney general’

As the race for the Republican Party’s nomination for Alabama U.S. Senate race has heated up, the topic of then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from any investigation dealing with the 2016 presidential election has become the hot campaign topic.

At a Marshall County campaign stop earlier this month, Sessions defended his decision on the recusal, noting that it was following the Department of Justice rules and procedures. However, since then, both U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) and former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, two of Sessions’ opponents in the GOP senatorial nomination contest, have both raised the issue in the context of Sessions’ ability to serve as a U.S. Senator.

Incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook), who will be the opponent in the November general election for the eventual Republican nominee, disagreed with Byrne and Tuberville.

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Jones, also a former U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration, categorized Sessions’ recusal as “about the only thing” Sessions did properly during his service as the Trump administration’s top law enforcement official.

“I do,” Jones replied. “It’s about the only thing I think he did right as attorney general. But he absolutely did that correctly. I’ve been a DoJ person myself. I was in the position of U.S. attorney, and I think he had to do that. I think it was the right thing to do. And I said that at the time, by the way. This is not something new. I said that at the time.”

“We’ll see who ends up being the nominee,” he continued. “But there will be plenty to talk about — about Jeff’s record if he ends up being the nominee. But that is one thing he and I will both agree on.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

2 hours ago

Huntsville International named nation’s best small airport

Huntsville International Airport on Friday was announced as the USA Today Readers’ Choice Best Small Airport of 2020.

A panel of experts picked the top 20 small airports in the United States to contend for this honor, and voting members of the public from around the United States chose Huntsville International as the nation’s best.

“We are ecstatic that Huntsville International Airport has been chosen by voters as North America’s best small airport for USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice awards,” Rick Tucker, CEO of Huntsville International Airport, said in a statement. “We are so grateful to our community for supporting HSV by voting. We share this honor with them and will continue to work hard to provide North Alabama and Southern Tennessee residents with even more great options at their local airport.”

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Yellowhammer News previously reported that the USA Today experts described Huntsville International as “small and easy to navigate, with an onsite hotel and a nice range of food and beverage options for an airport of its size.”

“Delta, American, United, Silver Airways and Frontier all fly into this small Alabama airport with nonstop service to 10 major destinations across the country,” they advised.

RELATED: Huntsville’s economic future is tied to our airport’s success

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn