Kay Ivey reports successful first year for Strong Start, Strong Finish education initiative

Education classroom students

Alabama’s Strong Start, Strong Finish (SSSF) education initiative is off to a strong start, Gov. Kay Ivey reported Monday providing a one-year progress report on the initiative she announced on July 26, 2017.

The program, which endeavors to integrate Alabama’s early childhood education, K-12 education and workforce development efforts into a seamless educational journey, is composed of three major strategies: Pre through Three; Computer Science for Alabama (CS4AL); and Advanced Training, Better Jobs.

According to the Governor’s office, o the past year Ivey has secured progress toward each of the SSSF goals in the following ways:

Pre through Three

First Class Pre-K Program and the P-3 Pilot

Under Ivey’s leadership, investment in First Class Pre-K has grown  from $77.5 to $96 million in just one year. The $18.5 million increase in 2018 was the largest ever single-year increase in program funding approved by the Legislature.

Looking forward to the 2018-2019 school year, First Class Pre-K will officially break the 1,000 classroom mark with 1,040 classrooms serving 18,720 four-year-olds, which will reach 35 percent of the eligible four-year-old population.

In December 2017, Ivey announced Alabama was awarded a $1.5 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support the launch of the Pre-K-3rd Grade Integrated Approach to Early Learning pilot program (“P-3”), starting with 35 classrooms in 2017-2018. The program will grow to 75 classrooms in the upcoming 2018-2019 school year.

The Alabama Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Ivey empaneled a diverse, 100-member Executive Team to assist in establishing 11 regional councils that will recruit a host of local campaigns for grade-level reading. The Executive Team met for the first time in June 2018, and the team will begin establishing the regional councils and recruiting local campaigns during the fall of 2018.

In the 2018 Legislative Session, Ivey secured a $4 million increase for the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI), which will be used to refocus ARI on grades K-3 and to reinforce the gains produced by the First Class Pre-K program.

During Summer 2018, Ivey established the Alabama Summer Achievement Program (ASAP) for students who are reading below grade level proficiency in grades 1-3 in effort to prevent the backsliding that often occurs over the summer for children in low-income families. An ASAP pilot program was launched at four elementary schools in Montgomery County, serving hundreds of children, with plans for expansion in Summer 2019.

Computer Science for Alabama (CS4AL)

In 2016, only 86 schools in Alabama offered a high-quality computer science course. Today, more than 175 Alabama high schools offer such classes. In September 2017, Ivey established the Governor’s Advisory Council for Computer Science Education.

In March 2018, Ivey and the Alabama State Board of Education approved the Alabama Digital Literacy and Computer Science Course of Study and Standards. Currently, only 10 other states in the nation have computer science standards.

Ivey also worked to secure $300,000 for computer science professional development for middle and high school teachers, during the 2018 Legislative Session.

On April 2, 2018, Ivey championed and signed legislation creating the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering. Based in Huntsville and scheduled to open during the fall of 2020, the school will be a destination magnet school that will also serve as the hub for computer science professional development in Alabama.

Advanced Training, Better Jobs

Alabama Postsecondary Education Attainment Goal

On April 30, 2018, the Attainment Committee issued the Success Plus Plan for post-secondary attainment. Based on those recommendations, Ivey set the statewide post-secondary attainment goal of adding 500,000 highly-skilled Alabamians to the workforce by 2025.

To achieve that goal, and in light of the recent reauthorization of Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, Ivey is working to increase the efficiency of our workforce development programs to meet Alabama’s growing economic demands and to incentivize more private-sector partners to offer apprenticeships.

Jobs for Alabama’s Graduates (JAG) Expansion

The Jobs for Alabama’s Graduates (JAG) program has grown from 23 to 29 programs in 2018 alone. Ivey worked to secure a $250,000 increase in the state appropriation for JAG, which provided funds for four new programs in Tuscaloosa, Morgan County, Madison County and Wilcox County. Ivey also utilized federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) monies to establish two additional JAG programs in Geneva County and Montgomery County.

Ivey is happy with the progress thus far but plans to further work toward these goals and continue to strive for improvement in Alabama’s education system.