Oklahomans are conservative bunch, by and large. Yet, support for one costly government intervention in the state is widespread: public preschool for 4-year-olds.
Oklahoma was the first state to begin such a program and is still one of just four states and the District of Columbia to fund it. I’ve been curious about Oklahoma since I began covering early education in 2012, and I finally had a chance to visit in November in my capacity as an early-education reporter for The Hechinger Report. I saw what universal preschool looks like up close in one a state with a pretty high childhood poverty rate and it was fascinating.
While Oklahoma is not at the top of the charts for reading or math scores nationally, it is one of the best at public preschool. It meets nearly all of the National Institute for Early Education’s quality standards, including fully certified teachers paid on par with K-12 teachers. But even when prekindergarten classes were in the same building as higher elementary grades, the pre-K classrooms felt distinct. Yes, there was academic instruction. But there was also play, sing-alongs and make believe.
Photo: Prekindergarten students in Muskogee, Oklahoma make art. Lillian Mongeau/The Hechinger Report
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.