Governor Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced that the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) ranks Alabama First Class Pre-K as the nation’s highest quality state pre-kindergarten program for the 14th consecutive year.
“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,” Governor Ivey said. “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. We can all be proud that Alabama continues to lead the nation in high quality early childhood education.”
In 2019, Alabama First Class Pre-K received its largest-ever single year funding increase recommended by the Governor and approved by the Alabama 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,” said 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.”
Alabama leads the nation in ensuring quality while expanding program access. Alabama’s strong quality policies result in high quality learning experiences and teaching, higher than research finds as a national average. The State of Preschool Yearbook summarizes progress nationally and state by state profiling interstate variation in state pre-K enrollment, spending, and 10 policies that support quality. Nationally, the State of Preschool 2019 annual report, based on 2018-2019 academic year data, finds just one third of four-year-olds are enrolled in public preschool programs—virtually no change in years. Inadequate funding undermines classroom quality, and most states fail to pay pre-k teachers comparably to K-3 teachers.
“Alabama continues to lead the nation in high quality pre-K” said 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.”