Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Named Nation’s Highest Quality Program for 12th Year in a Row
Governor Kay Ivey is applauding the announcement that for the 12th year in a row, Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is being hailed as one of the nation’s highest quality state-funded pre-kindergarten programs for four-year-olds.
This report released today by the National Institute for Early Education Research in its 2017 State of Preschool Yearbook. Released every year since 2003, NIEER’s State of Preschool Yearbook is the only national report on state-funded pre-k programs with detailed information on enrollment, funding, teacher qualifications and other policies related to quality. In this year’s edition, Alabama is one of only three states to meet all 10 of the new NIEER quality standards benchmarks used to determine program quality. Alabama also increased enrollment in First Class Pre-K by more than 2,700 children in 2016-2017, with help from a federal Preschool Development Grant.
“The most important part of a child’s learning journey is a solid educational foundation,” Governor Ivey said. “Providing a high-quality education for all Alabamians, at every stage of life, is my goal. For the 12th consecutive year, Alabama is a national leader in this arena. I am proud of the work of our Pre-K programs and I am thankful for the dedication of Secretary Ross in leading this program.”
Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program is managed by the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. ADECE is a part of the Executive Department of state government, principally established to enable the governor to effectively and efficiently coordinate early learning programs throughout the state. The Department administers the First Class Pre-K program through competitive grants awarded annually. Classrooms are located in public and private schools, child care centers, faith-based centers, Head Start programs and other community-based preschool settings.
Jeana Ross, Secretary of Early Childhood Education, has overseen the largest expansion of Alabama’s high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-k program while maintaining the program’s nationally recognized quality standards. “As Alabama continues to expand access to high-quality, voluntary pre-k for four-year-olds, the Department is committed to ensuring the highest quality early learning experiences – without compromise.”
This year, NIEER introduced major revisions to its research-based quality benchmarks, including requirements for early learning and development standards that are culturally sensitive, supported, and aligned with other state standards and child assessments; supports for curriculum implementation; professional development and coaching for lead and assistant teachers; and a continuous quality improvement system.
This year’s State of Preschool Yearbook looks at pre-kindergarten programs operating during the 2016-2017 school year. That year, approximately 14,032 four-year-olds were enrolled in a First Class Pre-K classroom in Alabama. Governor Ivey worked with the Alabama Legislature to increase the 2019 budget for the program to $96 million, which will fund an additional 100 classrooms, increasing the percentage of children served to more than 32%. This funding will also allow the Department of Early Childhood Education to ensure teacher pay parity with K-12 public school educators.