Oklahoma’s Pre-K program ranked second best in the nation

Oklahoma moved up three places to rank second in the country for Pre-K access for 4-year-olds, according to a report released today by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

While overall enrollment was down due to the pandemic, Oklahoma served 74% of eligible 4-year-old children and 16% of eligible 3-year-old children through public Pre-K and Head Start, the annual report shows. In addition, Oklahoma was named a leader in policies to support standards for high-quality Pre-K education. Only 11 states met at least nine of the 10 benchmark categories, which include academic standards and staff professional development.

“Oklahoma’s Pre-K program has a history of excellence because our educators know academic success begins with a strong start in reading and math,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “Oklahoma’s preschool program has weathered the pandemic far better than many other states, and I’m proud of our educators who have stayed focused on our youngest students.”

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 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 100% of school districts participating.

The 2021 edition of The State of Preschool Yearbook by NIEER is based on data from the 2020-21 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.