Tag: Pre-K

Expanding First Class Pre-K: A Bessemer day care joins Alabama’s lauded preschool program. Thousands more 4-year-olds statewide also stand to benefit from expansion.

When school started in Bessemer Aug. 12, a faith-based child care center, Trinity Love Center, had something many Alabama public schools don’t yet have — a First Class Pre-K.

Trinity Love Center is one of nearly 200 new classrooms to have the pre-kindergarten program, cited as best in the nation, after the Alabama Legislature this year passed a major funding increase — $26.8 million, bringing the total budget to $122.8 million.

“I researched Bessemer for child care centers and I knew we didn’t have that anywhere in Bessemer or even Brighton,” said Latonya Bender, director of Trinity. “This is going to be great for the downtown Bessemer area.”

Trinity was awarded a $120,000 grant, which will help Bender take her center to a different level.

“When we were there the other day, they were actually receiving all of the supplies, the beautiful toys and classroom equipment for a state-of-the-art First Class Pre-K classroom as part of that $120,000 grant that pays for the teacher, the assistant teacher, and in recruiting teachers with those credentials and the salaries that are required by the program, as well,” said Allison Muhlendorf, executive director of the Alabama School Readiness Alliance.

The overall funding increase in Alabama will greatly expand the reach of the First Class Pre-K program, she said. That translates to serving 3,000 more 4-year-olds. “And that’s going to bring the percentage of children served statewide to close to 40 percent,” she said. The state still was adding classrooms just before the start of school, so final numbers will be reported in the fall, she said.

Alabama’s voluntary pre-K program is expected to reach 21,636 children in the 2019-2020 school year, with more than 1,202 classrooms statewide, representatives for Gov. Kay Ivey’s office said recently. Jeana Ross, secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, told BirminghamWatch earlier that reaching 70 percent of all the state’s 4 -year-olds with First Class Pre-K is a long-term goal. Read more.

More pre-K reporting from BirminghamWatch

First Class in More Than Name Only: Why Alabama’s Preschool Program Is Best in the Country on National Standards

The excitement in the room is hard to miss – and it’s coming from the kids as well as the teacher.
“Kiss your brain for knowing that!” Dr. Stephanie Parker exclaims to her students at Huffman Academy Pre-K.
There are two teachers in each of the First-Class Pre-K class at Huffman Academy, and that is just one of the reasons Alabama’s public pre-K program got high marks from the National Institute for Early Education Research. Read more.

First Class in More Than Name Only: Why Alabama’s Preschool Program Is Best in the Country on National Standards

https://birminghamwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Hufman-Dr.-Stephanie-Parker-begins-the-class-day.jpg

A new PARCA report shows kids who attend Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program are more likely to be proficient in reading and math, an advantage that continues through their middle school years. Read the report.

The excitement in the room is hard to miss – and it’s coming from the kids as well as the teacher.

“Kiss your brain for knowing that!” Dr. Stephanie Parker exclaims to her students at Huffman Academy Pre-K this cool December morning in Birmingham. The class is part of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program.

Surrounded by colorful charts, educational photos and pictures of kids and their art, Parker takes her eager students through a recitation of the previous day’s Gingerbread Man story, as part of their “morning meeting.” She’s sitting in her wooden rocker at eye level with the kids, who talk and shout excitedly in answering her questions.

When they get something right, she applauds them with either a “kiss your brain,” or after a particularly significant achievement, encouragement to do a “standing Saturday Night Fever,” – with more than a dozen kids mimicking John Travolta’s hand-across- the-body dance move.

In the classroom next door, Denise Dennis’s preschoolers, after their morning meeting, are putting together gingerbread houses, some sitting at a small round table with their teacher, others at another table with her auxiliary teacher Wyesha Pullum.

There are two teachers in each pre-K class at Huffman Academy, and that is just one of the reasons Alabama’s public pre-K program got high marks in July from the Rutgers University-based National Institute for Early Education Research. NIEER ranked the efforts of 43 states and the District of Columbia to provide quality instruction for kids before kindergarten age.

For those who expect Alabama to be at the bottom of the list in educational achievement, the NIEER report may come as a surprise.

“I think if you look at this report, the conclusion would be Alabama’s the national leader here,” says Steve Barnett, the founding director of NIEER and a member of the team that put together the report, “Implementing 15 Essential Elements for High-Quality Pre-K: An Updated Scan of State Policies.”

Breaking down the rationale behind the 15 essentials, Barnett says: “They’re the result of a project which was developed to reverse engineer successful preschool. … Rather than saying ‘On average how much do any of these things matter?’ the question was ‘Well, if we focus on the programs that seem to have succeeded in doing great things for young children, what do they look like? What do they have in common?’ … What is it that seems to have to be in place to really have a high-quality preschool program that delivers excellence?” Read more.

This article was published in collaboration with 100 Days in Appalachia, a digital news publication incubated at West Virginia University in collaboration with West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the Daily Yonder.