8 months 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

1 hour ago

Auto supplier DaikyoNishikawa kicks off construction on $110 million Alabama plant

Governor Kay Ivey joined executives of DaikyoNishikawa US (DNUS) and local leaders at a groundbreaking event this week to officially launch construction on the auto supplier’s $110 million manufacturing plant in North Alabama.

The DNUS facility, which will produce plastic automotive parts for the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. (MTMUS) assembly plant, will employ approximately 380 people at full production.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site on the MTMUS campus where construction crews are poised to begin work on DNUS’ first U.S. manufacturing plant.

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“I’m proud to welcome another great Japanese company, DaikyoNishikawa, to Sweet Home Alabama, and I know that together we will build a lasting partnership,” Governor Ivey said.

“Today marks another pivotal moment for Huntsville as it becomes the next vital production hub for the global auto industry.”

In May, DNUS became the first supplier to announce plans to locate a facility on the site of the Mazda Toyota joint venture assembly plant, which will have the capacity to produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually.

“As our first manufacturing facility in North America, DNUS is proud to serve Mazda Toyota and call Huntsville our new home,” said Nariaki Uchida, president of DaikyoNishikawa Corporation.

“Together with our business and community partners, our aim is to be a good corporate neighbor and a premiere Tier I automotive supplier.”

By establishing its first North American facility in Huntsville, DaikyoNishikawa aims to maximize its business opportunities by further strengthening relationships with major customers.

MANUFACTURING ORBIT

Construction on the 3.1 million-square-foot MTMUS facility is well underway, with as many as 2,500 construction workers expected on the Limestone County site this summer.

The Mazda-Toyota partnership is investing $1.6 billion to open the Huntsville assembly plant, which will employ up to 4,000 people.

Once the DNUS facility begins operations to coincide with the start of MTMUS vehicle production in 2021, DNUS’s Alabama workforce will manufacture large resin parts such as bumpers and instrument panels for the automakers.

“By selecting Alabama as the site for its first U.S. manufacturing facility, DaikyoNishikawa joins a long list of world-class Japanese companies with growing operations in the state,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

“We look forward to working with this high-caliber company to assemble a workforce in Huntsville that can fuel its growth plans.”

HIRING PLANS

DNUS has started hiring qualified candidates. Individuals who are interested in applying for open positions at DNUS can visit the following links for more information:

The DNUS project represents one of the largest in a string of supplier announcements tied to the MTMUS assembly plant in 2019.

So far, a total of five MTMUS suppliers have pinpointed sites in North Alabama for production locations that will create almost 1,700 new auto-sector jobs, most of them in Huntsville.

“DaikyoNishikawa is a key manufacturer in the growing cluster of Tier 1 automotive suppliers for MTMUS, and we’re excited to provide the skilled workers for this high-performing auto industry leader,” ​Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said.

Hiroshima, Japan-based DaikyoNishikawa operates about a dozen R&D centers and manufacturing plants in its home country, as well as production sites in Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia and China. The company employs more than 5,000 people across these sites.

With roots stretching back to the early 1950s, DaikyoNishikawa supplies plastic parts to many major automakers based in Japan, including Mazda and Toyota.

(Courtesy of Made in Alabama)

3 hours ago

Andrews’ AJ breaks 38-year-old Alabama record

The 127-pound, 12-ounce amberjack that reigned atop the Alabama state records for 38 years was landed before Brian Andrews was born.

Marcus Kennedy of Mobile, who caught the big amberjack on June 19, 1981, saw the last of his state records fall on Friday, August 23, when Andrews’ 132-pound, 12.8-ounce fish takes its place after the record certification process is complete.

Andrews was aboard Capt. Bobby Walker’s Summer Breeze II soon after the amberjack season in the Gulf of Mexico kicked back in on August 1 a few weeks ago.

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Walker, who has been fishing the Gulf as a captain or deckhand for 50 years, went to a special amberjack (AJ) spot and his anglers started to hook nice fish.

“I couldn’t have had a better angler,” Walker said of Andrews, who hails from Citronelle. “I couldn’t have drawn it up any better. He was a big, strong, strapping guy. You talk about a guy working on a fish, he could do it.”

The 37-year-old Andrews is no neophyte angler. He has previously owned his own private Gulf boat and had some experience fishing offshore. He said the trip on Summer Breeze II started out in rough seas but turned into a nice day for fishing. After catching a few beeliners on two-hook rigs, the anglers got down to serious business at the amberjack holes.

When Andrews hooked up, he wasn’t sure what was on the other end of the line. He had caught a 70-pound amberjack earlier in his fishing career, but this one was different.

“I was trying to be positive, but several people were telling me it was a shark,” Andrews said. “He was pulling like a shark, but you never know. He made at least three big runs. It took at least 30 minutes to get him in. When he makes a run, all you can do is hold the rod and watch him go. When he starts peeling drag, you just hold on. When he stops peeling drag, you have to start taking some of the line back.”

The main thing the boat captain was worried about was the number of sharks that were hanging out in the same vicinity as the AJs.

“We had caught so many big bull sharks,” Walker said “I was hoping to goodness it wasn’t a shark. We had already caught two or three good jacks off that hole and broke off a couple. I was just hoping we weren’t wasting time reeling up a big shark. I hollered down to Paul (Resmondo), my deckhand, to let me know when he could see the fish and tell what it was. He said, ‘Bobby, he looks like he’s 40 feet down, but I can tell you it’s an AJ, and he looks huge.’”

When Andrews finally reeled the big fish to the surface, the deckhands gaffed the fish and struggled to get it into the boat.

“When that fish hit the deck, his mouth flopped open, and I said he looked like he could swallow a basketball,” Walker said. “His head was huge. I told them I’d lay money that the fish was at least 100. I didn’t think any more about it.”

Andrews said it was time for a break after the fish was finally on the deck and the deckhands were in charge.

“We admired him for a few minutes,” Andrews said. “We took a few pictures and got him on ice. I went inside for some AC (air conditioning) after that. After about 45 minutes, I was ready to catch another one. It took me a little while to recoup.”

The boat came back in and docked at Zeke’s Marina. Walker was busy squaring away the boat for the next trip when he heard something that got his attention.

“Then I heard people hollering and raising Cain and wondered what was going on,” he said. “They had hauled the fish up on the scales. When I saw it, I said, ‘Whoa.’ Tom Ard looked at me and said, Bobby, you’ve got a state record.”

The big fish measured 65 inches from the tip of its snout to the fork of its tail and sported a 40-inch girth.

Obviously, when you spend as much time as Walker on the Gulf, plenty of big fish are going to hit the marina dock.

“I’ve caught plenty of big amberjacks during my day,” he said. “I think that was the third one over 100 pounds. Believe it or not, we caught a 109 and a 111 on the same day about 10 years ago.”

When Kennedy, 17 at the time, caught the long-standing AJ record, he said big amberjack were more common during the late ’70s and early ’80s, and he was definitely gung-ho when it came to targeting big fish.

“We had caught several fish over 100 pounds back then,” said Kennedy, who held the Alabama blue marlin record for 26 years before it was broken in 2013. “I had previously held the record at 102 pounds. Some of my high school friends and my dad (the late Rod Kennedy) were out fishing. We actually caught that big fish (the record) on the Edwards Liberty Ship. I think I caught it on a small, live king mackerel, but I can’t remember 100%. I definitely was using a 6/0 reel with 100-pound test line and a Ross Hutchisson custom rod. That was my big amberjack rig. Back then, that’s what we fished for. We won the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo on a regular basis with big amberjack. When we got that fish in the boat, I knew it was significantly bigger that the 102-pounder that I’d caught before. We got him to the boat in 15 to 20 minutes. We fought them hard, and I had a good, strong back back then.”

Now that his last record is off the Alabama record books, he’s not worried about getting back on the list. He’s going to leave that up to his 28-year-old son, Tyler, who already owns three state records for other saltwater species.

“If I catch a record fish, it’s going to be something smaller,” Kennedy said. “It’s not going to be an amberjack or blue marlin. I’ll leave that up to Tyler and Ryan (Kennedy, his 20-year-old nephew).”

Walker said amberjack are usually around some kind of structure – wrecks, petroleum rigs or big rocks on natural bottom – and can be anywhere from 50 feet to 300 feet down. He said it’s easy to distinguish between the different snappers and the amberjack. He marks AJs on his bottom machine and tells his anglers how far to drop.

Although a lot of anglers will use big jigs for amberjack, Capt. Walker likes to use live bait for the big fish.

“Hardtails (blue runners) are probably the best bait,” he said. “Jigs used to work great, but AJs are just not as plentiful and are harder to catch. We just like to drop a big, live bait down and see what’s down there. The secret to catching a big AJ is having the right tackle. You’ve got to go pretty heavy. You can’t catch one like that on light tackle. First, you’ve got to get him away from the wreck or the rocks. You’ve got to have some pretty strong tackle to do that. If you can get him away from the structure, you’ve got a good chance of catching him.”

Walker said amberjack fishing has been a little slow so far, but he knows fishing success is cyclical.

“One year it’s great, and the next year you’re wondering where the AJs went,” he said. “This has started out like one of those years that’s down a little.”

Walker said the demand to catch amberjack doesn’t compare with red snapper. He fished 55 of the 62-day snapper season for charter boats.

“People like to catch amberjacks, but it’s nothing like the bookings we get for snapper,” he said. “We tell them we can also catch beeliners (vermilion snapper) and maybe a scamp or a grouper. I’ve got some more 12-hour trips coming up. I’m probably going to the amberjack hole. I want to see if lightning strikes twice in the same spot.”

David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

18 hours ago

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama announces sponsorship of Montgomery’s bike share program

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama announced Friday a partnership with the City of Montgomery to help sponsor Montgomery’s bike share program.

Blue Cross, Baptist Health and Wind Creek Hospitality are collaborating to launch the new program, which is an innovative biking system aimed at improving the quality of life and increasing tourism in downtown Montgomery.

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“We are proud to partner with the City of Montgomery as we work together to build healthier communities across Alabama,” said Koko Mackin, vice president of Corporate Communications and Community Relations, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama in a press release. “Montgomery’s bike share program is an excellent opportunity to provide workers, residents, and visitors a new and convenient way to get around and enjoy our capital city.”

The Montgomery bike share program will be operated by Pace, a micro-mobility vendor. According to the announcement from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, bike stations are placed in prominent locations throughout Montgomery’s city-center.

Bike station locations include the Rosa Parks Library/Museum, First White House of the Confederacy, City Hall, Renaissance Hotel & Spa, Old Alabama Town, Morgan Library, Kress Building, Wright Brothers Park, the Alley and the Intermodal.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

19 hours ago

The Alabama Education Association protects the status quo by opposing charter schools

There are good things happening in education within the state of Alabama, but overall, the quality of education in this state lags behind the rest of the country.

In the past, the Alabama Education Association (AEA) claimed they were an organization that fought for quality education, but the results of their decades of control on the state, and the Alabama Democratic Party, were hardly anything to write home about.

Now, the AEA is in a completely different position. They are the adversary and the loyal opposition, and they are out of power.

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The late Paul Hubbert, who ran the AEA and Democratic Party with an iron fist, is long gone. His predecessor, Henry Mabry, oversaw a wipeout of the AEA’s allies in elected office. No one reading this even knows what unfortunate soul is leading this weakened, but still relevant organization in 2019.

Legislators in the past feared the AEA, but now they are hardly aware of their existence outside of an active email list and subservient “journalists” who are trying to relive their glory days as the sun goes down.

The 2019 AEA is stuck in neutral, at best, they are seen as an annoyance and nothing more.

Recently, Alabama State Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) announced that there would be an increase in funding to recruit charter schools to give interested parents more options for their children’s educations.

The quadrupling of their funding will allow $400,000 to recruit new schools, but Marsh highlighted part of the problem with the AEA by pointing out that some of those resources will have to be used to fight the AEA as they sue the state over the creation of charter schools.

Another organization just received a $25 million federal grant to attract charter schools to the state which could bring in 15 additional charter schools.

Will the AEA support them? No, they will fight them. They will fight them at every step.

They could put them in the worst school districts, and they would be opposed.

They could put them in the best school districts, and they would be opposed.

The AEA’s opposition to these programs is based on nothing except fear of competition. They, of course, claim they support “good charter schools,” but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to back that up.

The AEA sues charter school startups.

The AEA applauds when charter schools are stalled.

Does the AEA actually support charter schools? No.

Does the AEA support vouchers? No.

Does the AEA support school choice? No.

The AEA is an advocate for their members, and that is fine, but they do not seem like they are not good advocates for education and seem to have no desire to change that.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN.

20 hours ago

Former NFL star Michael Vick speaks in Alabama, credits God with turning life around

Former NFL star Michael Vick visited Alabama A&M University in Huntsville on Thursday, speaking to students about how he turned his life around after being infamously imprisoned for approximately 18 months from 2007-2009 due to his involvement in a dog-fighting ring.

According to a report by WAFF, Vick stressed the importance of second chances in life.

He also explained that for him, successfully taking advantage of his big second chance was due to Vick turning to God for answers.

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His faith, bolstered in prison, gave him clarity with what his life mission was, Vick told the students.

Vick also commented on the importance of positive role models in life.

“Second chances mean everything to me, man. People who stood at the forefront, who allowed me to be put in that space, they deserve all the credit. I was just a guy who needed them at a critical time in my life,” Vick said.

You can watch WAFF’s report here.

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