Rockingham County, NC - For the second year in a row, North Carolina ranks among the nation's top two states for preschool education.
The state tied Alabama for first, scoring a perfect 10. It's also the fifth time the state placed in the top 10.
State education leaders say the ranking is proof students as young as three are getting a jump start in the classroom.
Studies show they're now 10 times more likely to graduate and score higher on tests. The State of Preschool 2009 report, published by the National Institute for Early Education Research also serves as validation for Pre-K teachers that what they're doing in the classroom works.
At Monroeton Elementary, even recess turns into a study period. Preschool teacher Melissa Fulcher use uses break-time to reinforce concepts important to early childhood development.
It's part of the preschool curriculum where hands on learning and takes top priority.
"Most times they're very active and very talkative," said Fulcher.
It's one of the reasons NIEER ranked North Carolina's pre-school programs among the top in the nation.
"I guess I'm surprised, because North Carolina tends to be the bottom of a lot. So for the preschool classrooms to be rated top 2 in the nation that's uplifting for me," said Fulcher. "It means North Carolina is really pursuing and understanding what early childhood education is all about."
Fulcher says the state's More at Four and Preschool programs work. She's seen the difference first hand.
"We had one child whose in 5th grade now who came to us with some social problems and he's great now," said Fulcher. "He tells his mom that we're his favorite teachers."
Here, it's not just about the alphabet and numbers. "It's very rewarding when a child has tried and tried to open their milk carton all year and they finally got it today. That's amazing!"
The state met all 10 quality standards for preschool education. That includes staff-child ratios, teacher degrees and the amount of funding spent on children.
For North Carolina that means $5,414 per child; more than a $1,000 over the national average.
For more information on the state's More at Four program, click here.
To read the NIEER's report, click here.