Oklahoma achieves high marks in national Pre-K report
Mike Seals - April 19, 2021 9:46 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY (April 19, 2021) – Oklahoma ranks fifth in the country for Pre-K access for 4-year-olds, according to a new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). Oklahoma also scores among the top 11 states in the nation for quality Pre-K programs.
Oklahoma serves 80% of eligible 4-year-old children when public pre-kindergarten enrollment (70%) is combined with Head Start enrollment, the annual report states. Oklahoma also received high marks for its investment in Pre-K programs. According to NIEER, Oklahoma was one of only five states that spends enough to pay for high-quality, full-day Pre-K.
In addition, Oklahoma was named a leader in policies to support standards for high-quality Pre-K education for the third year in a row. Only 11 states met at least nine of the 10 benchmark categories, which include academic standards and staff professional development.
“Oklahoma has a history of excellence with its Pre-K programs because Oklahoma educators know academic success begins with early immersion in reading and math, coupled with evidence-backed, play-based learning,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “After an enrollment drop in early childhood this year because of the pandemic, we are already seeing a dramatic rebound in enrollment for next school year.”
Oklahoma is one of the few states requiring Pre-K teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree with teaching certification, and it ensures them equal pay with other grade-level teachers. Pre-K teachers in Oklahoma also have the same individualized professional development opportunities as other teachers at the state level.
Oklahoma launched its Early Childhood Four-Year-Old Program in 1980, years ahead of the rest of the country. In 1998, Oklahoma became only the second state to offer Pre-K for all 4-year-olds, with 99% of school districts participating.
Oklahoma’s commitment to early education is evident in the state’s eight-year strategic plan, Oklahoma Edge. The comprehensive education plan, required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, lists one of the state’s six primary goals as aligning early childhood education and learning foundations to ensure at least 75% of students are “ready to read” upon kindergarten entry.
NIEER also recognized Oklahoma for its fully aligned academic standards for Pre-K to 12th grade in 2016 and for the Professional Learning Focus in 2018.
The 2020 edition of The State of Preschool Yearbook by NIEER is based on data from the 2019–20 school year. NIEER at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education supports early childhood education policy and practice through independent, objective research and the translation of research to policy and practice.