|dc.description.abstract||The purpose of this research study was to examine principals’ perceptions on the benefits of high quality Pre-K programs in Central Alabama elementary schools and their impact on student achievement for at-risk children. Data were collected from five selected public school systems in Alabama which are located in the central part of the state. Principals for 54 elementary schools were invited to participate in the study by completing a 20 item four-point Likert type scale questionnaire that measured their perceptions. The questionnaire also included a section on eight demographic variables that included gender, race, years of experience, education level, school classification, school enrollment, free/reduced rate, and Title I/Non-Title I. Forty-three principals responded to the questionnaire, yielding a total of 80%.
The investigator sought to answer the following questions: (1) What are Alabama elementary principals’ perception about research linking children in high-quality Pre-K programs and later school achievement? (2) What are Alabama principals’ perceptions about research-based high quality standards and curriculum in Pre-K programs? (3) To what extent do Alabama elementary principals believe financial, facility, or human resources impact Pre-K programs in Alabama? (4) Is there a statistically significant difference between principals’ perceptions of the benefits of Pre-K programs when grouped according to gender, ethnicity, qualifications, number of certifications, and years of experience?
Findings revealed that the principals perceived themselves as knowledgeable of early childhood education curriculum. Additionally, the principals believed the level of importance in early education programs should be placed on identification of letters and numbers, learning to write one’s name, expanding vocabulary, and learning social and emotional skills. Findings of the study also reflected statistically significant relationships (p < .05, **p < .01) in six of the eight demographic variables of race, years of experience, education level, school classification, total school enrollment, and free/reduced lunch. The investigator concluded that there is a need for further research in many areas regarding how administrators view the benefits of early childhood education programs and its impact for at-risk children.