A new study released Monday shows Alabama's First Class Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program continues to lead the nation in quality. Alabama is one of only four states in the country to meet all 10 quality benchmarks established by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).
The quality benchmarks include teacher training, staff-child ratios, support services and more. Alabama's voluntary pre-k program has now met all of NIEER's quality benchmarks for seven years in a row.
"Alabama's voluntary pre-k program is unique to our state, and I'm proud that, once again, our program is second-to-none for quality," Governor Robert Bentley said. "Our voluntary program was developed by early childhood education experts from Alabama for the children of Alabama. They developed Alabama-based guidelines and quality assurances. And for years, the quality of our program has been recognized across the country."
"This illustrates why we need to make sure this voluntary program is available to more children and their families," Governor Bentley added. "Voluntary pre-k gives our children a strong foundation. It prepares them well for K-12 school, and it increases their chances for success. Expanding access to voluntary pre-kindergarten is a wise investment that will benefit children across the state."
Currently, only six percent of Alabama's four-year-olds are enrolled in the First Class voluntary pre-k program. In order to make the successful program available to more children, Governor Bentley recommended an additional $12.5 million in pre-k funding in his Education Trust Fund proposal for fiscal year 2014. The Education Trust Fund is currently pending in the Alabama Legislature.
Alabama's voluntary pre-k program is managed by the Alabama Office of School Readiness. The office is part of the Alabama Department of Children's Affairs, which is overseen by Governor Bentley.
Jeana Ross, the Governor's Commissioner of the Department of Children's Affairs, said the success of Alabama's voluntary program reflects the efforts of dedicated professionals throughout the state.
"Our pre-k classrooms are led by educators who are committed to providing the highest-quality experiences for young children," Ross said. "Our national recognition reflects the high quality of Alabama's voluntary pre-k program. This also reflects the support we've received from the Governor's Office, the Alabama Legislature, the business community and others who want to ensure our children are well-prepared for success in school and throughout their lives."
Full details on the study released Monday by the National Institute for Early Education Research can be found online at www.nieer.org.