First Class Pre-K Sites:
Housed within the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, the Office of School Readiness (OSR) administers Alabama’s diverse delivery, voluntary, high-quality Pre-K program. Classrooms are funded through a grant process in which sites must meet specific quality assurances and abide by rigorous operating guidelines. Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program has been awarded the highest quality rating by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for 15 consecutive years, which includes two years of highest ratings based on more stringent measures of practice.
Using a multi-pronged approach, the Office of School Readiness has implemented evidence-based strategies and methods grounded in research literature to assure that all Alabama 4-year-olds have access to excellent early learning classrooms in their communities. According to the experts, an investment in early preschool education can have positive long-term impacts, including improvements in math and reading scores and reductions in retention in grade and special education placements. The Alabama First Class Pre-K program has expanded substantially from serving just over 5,000 Alabama 4-year-olds in 2013 to more than 21,000 in 2019, yet incremental growth and strong infrastructure have allowed for quality to be maintained and monitored. The purpose of this white paper is to describe how the Alabama First Class Pre-K program supports quality, accountability, and student outcomes that extend well beyond Kindergarten entry.
Numerous research studies have shown that students who participated in high quality pre-kindergarten programs are less likely to repeat a grade, require remedial education, or be placed in special education; score higher on achievement tests; are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college; get higher paying salaries as adults; and are more likely to stay out of prison and off welfare.
The Office of School Readiness defines “school readiness” as a condition whereby children enter school with:
• An enthusiasm for learning;
• An ability to function in a social setting;
• Age-appropriate communication and problem-solving skills; and
• Optimal health