By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded a $1.5 million grant to help expand the state’s Pre-K through Third Grade Integrated Approach to Early Learning program.
“I’m thrilled to announce the W.K. Kellogg Foundation has awarded the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education a $1.5 million grant that will go a long way in helping us to expand our Pre-3 program,” Ivey said. “Ensuring that our children receive a high-quality, early childhood education is a key component to my ‘Strong Start, Strong Finish’ initiative. I’m thankful the Kellogg Foundation is helping me to invest in the future of Alabama’s children.”
The governor says that Pre-K through Third Grade Integrated Approach to Early Learning program is the first pillar of her new education initiative, Strong Start, Strong Finish, which is a joint effort of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education, Alabama State Department of Education and the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) to improve student achievement by aligning effective teaching strategies and improving collaboration among educators in early elementary school grades. Currently, eight school systems are participating in the program’s initial year. The Kellogg Foundation grant will help increase the number of schools participating in the pilot program.
“The Pre-K through Third Grade Integrated Approach works to improve student outcomes by aligning instruction across the early grades,” Secretary of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education Jeanna Ross said. “Although the initiative is in its first year, we’ve already received interest from other schools interested in joining this effort. The Kellogg Foundation funding will help us offer support and technical assistance to more schools.”
The schools participating in the program will have access to early childhood education specialists who will help pre-k to third grade teachers implement evidence-based instructional practices. The support structure is modeled after Alabama’s nationally-recognized First Class Pre-K program and other successful leadership, instruction and assessment strategies currently being implemented in Alabama’s schools.
U.S. News and World Report and the McKinsey Corporation ranks Alabama schools as number 47. Only Nevada, New Mexico, and South Carolina have worse performing schools. The NAEP scores Alabama 50th in 8th grade math scores, 47th in 8th grade reading scores, and 46th in college readiness (only 24 percent of Alabama kids meet ACT benchmarks. Only 32 percent of Alabamians are college educated. The state is ranked 1st in Pre-K quality. This has yet to translate however in to improved educational outcomes.
Former Gov. Robert Bentley put it bluntly last years: “Our schools suck.”
Ivey has said that by 2020 over 60 percent of Alabama’s workforce will need a two year technical certificate, a two year associate’s degree, a four year college degree, or a PhD.
Ivey is running for governor in 2018. The major party primaries are on June 5, 2018.