Four Ways Alabama is Prioritizing Early Education
High-quality early childhood education is a family issue, a school readiness issue, and an economic issue. And today, as we navigate the effects of the pandemic, particularly on those most vulnerable, it’s more important than ever before.
Alabama is among the states leading the path forward. Alabama offers First Class Pre-K, a diverse delivery, voluntary, high-quality Pre-K program that now serves nearly 25,000 children, and supports a pre-K to third grade (P-3) learning continuum.
In a recent panel discussion, “Meeting the Moment: The Economic Imperative of Early Childhood Education,” Alabama Department of Early Childhood Secretary Barbara Cooper shared how the Yellowhammer State has prioritized early childhood education and how it continues to innovate amid an uncertain future.
Among the key takeaways, Secretary Cooper emphasized Alabama:
- Prioritizes ongoing, formative assessment birth through third grade. Alabama has been intentional about supporting formative assessment to inform planning and individualize instruction. This is especially important now as we work to identify and address learning loss. The designated assessment tool for Alabama First Class Pre-K and the P-3 program is Teaching Strategies GOLD. Additionally, to support children moving from an early learning care environment into K-12 learning space, the state has adopted AlaKiDs, which is a state-specific design of the Teaching Strategies Kindergarten Entry Assessment.
- Offers year-round professional development for administrators and educators. Educators receive special training aligned to both the curriculum they teach and the assessments they administer to their students.
- Utilizes comprehensive digital resources for all publicly funded early childhood care and education programs. As a result of the quick shift to distance and hybrid learning during the pandemic, Alabama adopted these resources to support continuity of high-quality learning in any environment and to better integrate the core components of early learning including formative assessment, individualized instruction, family engagement, and ongoing professional development. These resources remain a vital component in the traditional classroom.
- Focuses on social and emotional learning. Alabama invests in Teaching Strategies’ “The First Six Weeks” resource to help educators build positive relationships with children and families and create a caring classroom community that leads to positive outcomes for all children.
The discussion, which took place at the 2021 ASU+GSV Summit, also included moderator Matt Glickman, partner at Promise Venture Studio, and panelists Jane Swift, president and executive director of LearnLaunch; Diana Rauner, president of Start Early; and Rhian Allvin, CEO of NAEYC. Watch it below.