Alabama's Pre-K program receives high marks - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Alabama's Pre-K program receives high marks

(Source: MGN) (Source: MGN)
AUTAUGA CO., AL (WSFA) -

The top Pre-K program in the nation is right here in Alabama.

It's known as First Class, a voluntary based program, free to each four year old student. For the first time, every county in the state has at least one pre-k classroom.

For the first year, Autauga County now has two Pre-K classrooms.

"She's singing a song about pink and rhyming and spelling and all those things she doesn't even realize," said Stephanie Sims.

Sims' daughter is a student in the Autauga County Pre-K program. Sims' little girl has spent only a few days in the classroom, but already she knows this year will help her child succeed for years to come.

"She's learning life skills and at the same time playing," says Sims.

In First Class, students learn through play. They get to still be 4-year-olds even though they are at school and it's on their level. There's no set curriculum but it's the children that direct the learning experience.

Danielle Allen is a Pre-K teacher. She has witnessed firsthand the benefits of the program.

"We had a child come in who didn't talk, she didn't know her name. By the end of the year she would come in and be like 'I know my name' and would spell it for us. She was proud of her own self that she had learned so much. She just went on to excel and do great things in kindergarten."

It goes beyond just kindergarten.

According to experts, students who participate in high quality Pre-K programs are more likely to graduate high school, go to college, and later on be gainfully employed.

Cassie Fields also teaches at Pine Level Elementary as a Pre-K teacher.

"Pre-K is the groundwork," Fields said. "It lays a foundation for them to succeed throughout school. Once they get to 3rd grade and 4th grade and on, they feel they can do it. They set their goals higher and higher."

Currently, the state is providing grants for 414 Pre-K classrooms. Each class has no more than 20 students.

Due to funding being tight, students are randomly selected through a lottery. The state does hope to have the program fully funded which would allow 65% to 70% of all 4-year-olds to have the free education. Leaders say that would cost $122 million.

To locate the state Pre-K program where you live, visit the Alabama Department of Children's Affairs website.

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