OKLAHOMA CITY (April 17, 2019) – Oklahoma’s public Pre-K program scored among the top eight states in the nation in a new report from the influential National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).
In “The State of Preschool 2018” annual report, Oklahoma met 9 of 10 benchmarks in quality standards, including academic standards, class size and staff professional development. Only three states met all 10 benchmarks, and four states tied Oklahoma with nine benchmarks.
“Kindergarten readiness has long been a priority in Oklahoma, as has professionalizing the role of those who teach our youngest learners,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “For decades, our early childhood educators have been nationally renowned as pioneers in their field. Though we are grateful for this important recognition of excellence in our Pre-K programs, we must continue to prioritize early learning to prepare our children to reach their full potential.”
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 percent of school districts participating.
Hofmeister credited the PK-12 vertical alignment of strengthened Oklahoma Academic Standards, adopted in 2016, with helping Oklahoma reach NIEER’s learning standards benchmark. In addition, Oklahoma is one of only four states requiring Pre-K teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree with teaching certification and 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 met the benchmark for class size by adhering to a 10:1 student-educator ratio in Pre-K. Pre-K classes must be limited to 10 students for each teacher or 20 students for one teacher and one assistant.
Oklahoma’s commitment to early education is evident in the state’s 8-year strategic plan, Oklahoma Edge. The comprehensive education plan, required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), lists one of the state’s six primary goals as aligning early childhood education and learning foundations to ensure at least 75 percent of students are “ready to read” upon kindergarten entry.
The NIEER report, based on the 2017-18 school year, reported that 74 percent of Oklahoma’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in public Pre-K. Nationwide, only 33 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in a state-funded preschool program.