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Kids Count Report Shows Early Childhood Education Impacts Later School Years

December 11, 2017
Lisa Singleton-Rickman
The Times Daily

A recent report released by VOICES for Alabama’s Children shows the state’s investments in early childhood education are making an impact on student performance in later grades.

The VOICES report was released last week as a supplement to the 2017 Kids Count Data Book released this summer.

Kids Count, sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, compares Alabama to other states nationally and ranked Alabama 42nd in the country in education.

Since 2008, enrollment in the state’s First Class Pre-K program has grown by more than 400 percent.

Rhonda Mann, director of VOICES, said Pre-K is making a difference in the counties where there’s ample access to programs. However, only 28 percent of the the state’s 4 year olds have access to the program.

“We know it’s doing what it’s supposed to do and closing achievement gaps,” Mann said. “And with this year’s measurement of the categories including poverty and non-poverty, we’re especially seeing the role of Pre-K in closing those gaps among low-income students.”

In Colbert, Franklin and Lauderdale counties, the numbers of children enrolled in Pre-K have risen drastically in recent years, as more classrooms are added in the various school districts.

In Colbert County, 48 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in First Class Pre-K this year. Enrollment is 53 percent in Franklin County, and 46 percent in Lauderdale County.

Jacque Jefferys, director of the Northwest-Shoals Community College Child Development Center, said her center has two Pre-K classrooms, and is in need of more space for an additional class, which she said she hopes to add in the near future.

“It’s been a fast-growing program and our classes stay full with others waiting,” Jefferys said. “It’s a valuable program and the data just backs it up. It definitely gives children an edge starting school.”

Since 2008, enrollment of 4 year olds in the state’s Pre-K program jumped from 3,330 to this year’s 16,884.

In 2008, the percentage of first-graders retained was 4 1/2 percent. Today, it is less than one-half percent.

The gains in later grades are also becoming more prevalent, the report shows.