Nancy Novosad, a pre-K teacher's aide at Ranchwood Elementary in Yukon, reads to students on April 26.

Oklahoma’s pre-kindergarten has long been a bright spot in education, and a new report out this week shows the program still shines. The state ranked second in the country for access among 4-year-olds and met 9 of the 10 quality benchmarks measured by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, which compiles the annual report.

For 2021, 64% of eligible 4-year-olds enrolled in pre-K, which is offered in every school district in the state. Only the District of Columbia reported a higher percentage. While many states limit pre-K enrollment by income, Oklahoma has offered free pre-K to all children since 1998.

Preschool enrollment declined in nearly every state amid the coronavirus pandemic, but Oklahoma’s decline was smaller than in most states at about 6% percent of 4-year-olds (see details about Oklahoma’s ranking here.)

The report highlights the state Education Department’s inclusion of preschool in its coronavirus recovery plan and the governor’s signing of the “Oklahoma Play to Learn Act” in 2021, which encourages early elementary teachers to let children learn through play.

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— Jennifer Palmer

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