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About First Class Pre-K

Housed within the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, the Office of School Readiness (OSR) administers Alabama’s diverse delivery, voluntary, high-quality Pre-K program. Classrooms are funded through a grant process in which sites must meet specific quality assurances and abide by rigorous operating guidelines. Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program has been awarded the highest quality rating by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for 16 consecutive years, which includes four years of highest ratings based on more stringent measures of practice.

Using a multi-pronged approach, the Office of School Readiness has implemented evidence-based strategies and methods grounded in research literature to assure that all Alabama 4-year-olds have access to excellent early learning classrooms in their communities. According to the experts, an investment in early preschool education can have positive long term impacts, including improvements in math and reading scores, and reductions in retention in grade and special education placements. The Alabama First Class Pre-K program has expanded substantially from serving just over 5,000 Alabama 4-year-olds in 2013 to more than 22,000 in 2021, yet incremental growth and strong infrastructure have allowed for quality to be maintained and monitored. The Alabama First Class Pre-K program supports quality, accountability, and student outcomes that extend well beyond kindergarten entry.

Numerous research studies have shown that students who participated in high-quality pre-kindergarten programs are less likely to repeat a grade, require remedial education, or be placed in special education; score higher on achievement tests; are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college; get higher paying salaries as adults; and are more likely to stay out of prison and off welfare.

The Office of School Readiness defines “school readiness” as a condition whereby children enter school with:

  • An enthusiasm for learning;
  • An ability to function in a social setting;
  • Age-appropriate communication and problem-solving skills; and
  • Optimal health
PreK exploring careers through play
PreK students celebrating Mardi Gras at Coldwater Elementary
Students laying on carpet looking up at camera
Three PreK student reading a book together
Four PreK students showing off a snowman drawing.
Teacher and student swinging on playground
Two PreK students building a block tower.
Six PreK Students enjoying their afternoon snack around a table.
Class of PreK Students wearing party hats
Three students dressed as astronauts
A group of PreK Students during a pep rally
A class of PreK students with Chase and Sky characters
A student showing off the Kiwi birds from class
A student showing his measurements/height using paper apples
A group of PreK students standing in front of Polar Express display

Marilyn Burke - Preschool Director,, 256-241-3145