MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Governor’s Office) — 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 13th consecutive year.
“For a child to reach their fullest potential later in life, they must first build a strong foundation. I’m proud that Alabama First Class Pre-K is once again proving to be successful in providing that solid ground for our youngest learners,” Governor Ivey said. “From our state’s historic investment in this program to Secretary Jeana Ross’s unmatched leadership, Alabama is setting the tone for early childhood education around the country. Other states know that Alabama’s students are getting off to a very strong start, and if they follow Alabama’s lead, then they, too, can do the same for their students.”
In 2018, Alabama First Class Pre-K received its largest-ever single year funding increase, which expanded access to 32% of four-year-olds in the state while continuing to meet all 10 quality standards benchmarks. Alabama 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.
“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,” Jeana Ross, Secretary of Early Childhood Education said. “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. We are constantly working to develop and implement policies that support program quality in early childhood settings.”
Alabama leads the nation in ensuring quality while expanding program access. Nationally, the State of Preschool 2018 annual report, based on 2017-2018 academic year data, finds just one third of four-year-olds are enrolled in public preschool programs—virtually no change in years. Nationally, state funding is failing to keep pace with even the slow increases in enrollment and state spending per child has decreased, when adjusted for inflation. Inadequate funding undermines classroom quality, and most states fail to pay pre-k teachers comparably to K-3 teachers.
“We wish more states followed Alabama’s example of expanding pre-k enrollment with adequate funding, high quality, and demonstrated effectiveness,” said NIEER Founder and Senior Co-Director Steven Barnett, Ph.D. “Research finds the program yields long-term gains in achievement. If the state continues to invest, all Alabama’s young children can benefit in the near future.”
This year’s report includes a special section on policies affecting the preschool teacher workforce, focusing on salary and benefit parity. All teachers in First Class Pre-K classrooms must center their instructional strategies, classroom environment and activities according to the Alabama First Class Frame Work, first implemented beginning in the 2013-2014 academic year.