First Class Pre-K alumni make significant gains in reading and math proficiency

February 28, 2018

Governor Ivey has announced a new study of Alabama third graders that finds that students who participated in the state's high-quality, voluntary First Class Pre-K program are more likely to be proficient in reading and math than their peers. This finding was especially true for minority children and children living in poverty.

The new study, “Achievement Gap Closure and Gains Associated with Alabama’s First Class Pre-K,” was conducted for the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education by a research team that includes the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.

The research team observed that participation in Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program significantly narrowed the academic achievement gaps that typically exist between children in poverty and their more affluent peers, and between minority children and non-minority children. This is good news because persistent academic achievement gaps in our state have been historically difficult to reverse and have signaled mounting challenges for Alabama's future workforce and quality of life.

Among the findings, researchers observed that First Class Pre-K:

  • Narrowed the gap reading proficiency by 28 percent for all children in poverty; 32 percent for White children in poverty; 31 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; and, 26 percent for Black children in poverty.
  • Narrowed the gap in math proficiency by 57 percent for all children in poverty; 71 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; and, 37 percent for Black children in poverty.
  • Increased reading proficiency for children in poverty by 12 percent overall; 25 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; 23 percent for Black children in poverty; and, 3 percent for White children in poverty.
  • Increased math proficiency for children in poverty by 13 percent overall; 17 percent for Hispanic children in poverty; 16 percent for Black children in poverty; and, 10 percent for White children in poverty.

Researchers have also looked at student performance through the sixth grade and found lasting gains in reading and math proficiency for students that participated in First Class Pre-K. 

There are currently 941 Alabama First Class Pre-K classrooms across the state. Classrooms are located in childcare centers, public schools, faith-based centers, college and university lab schools, private schools, community centers, military childcare centers, and other preschool facilities. The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education administers the First Class Pre-K program through competitive grant applications, now being accepted through March 1.

For 11 years in a row, the National Institute for Early Education Research has named Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program the nation’s highest quality pre-k program for four-year-olds. Alabama’s program is one of only two states that meets or exceeds all ten of the benchmarks NIEER measures to determine program quality.

Pre-registration is now open for families interested in enrolling their four-year-olds in the First Class Pre-K program during the 2018-2019 school year. Due to the limited number of First Class Pre-K classrooms across the state, random drawings are used to select participants. The deadline to pre-register for the state’s random selection process varies by location. To register, applicants must complete the online form located at https://alprek.asapconnected.com.