How Oklahoma became our country’s best model for universal PreK

For a peek at how Oklahoma became the first state in the country to roll out universal PreK, join us as we listen in on this riveting, recently rebroadcast segment of This American Life.

The challenge


What we heard from teachers and administration at after implementing Tools at

How Oklahoma became our country’s best model for universal PreK


No items found.

The process

Committee search to choose the right curriculum

Selection of Tools of the Mind curriculum & professional development

Tools training and implementation for all relevant staff

Teaching and learning review and outcomes

The path to universal PreK in any state can be complicated, even when lots of folks with plenty of evidence to support its value come together to try and make it happen. As more states make early learning a priority (see Getting the word out: Boosting TK enrollment in CA), let Alex Blumberg, former producer of public radio’s This American Life, take you back to 1998, when Oklahoma was the first state in the country to publically fund PreK at all schools and for all students by making a small yet important change to the state’s school funding formula. 

Listen in with us to this rebroadcast of a 2012 episode to hear the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction tale of how an unlikely state legislator, sidetracked from his original plan to cut funding for schools by an even more unlikely corporate executive, brought universal PreK to Oklahoma. Hiding his funding proposal in an amendment that he was counting on his colleagues to not read too closely turned out to be the right call and the children of Oklahoma have been reaping the benefits ever since.  

Listen here.

“Now that the law is in place in Oklahoma, it just adds evidence to the case for preschool. Researchers who studied Tulsa's preschool kids say they enter kindergarten an average of five months ahead in math, seven months ahead in writing, and nine months ahead in reading. And the gains are even more pronounced for at-risk kids who get preschool.” - Alex Blumberg

A high-quality preschool program like Tools of the Mind can guide children's development of the self-regulation skills necessary to focus and sustain attention and control their emotions and behaviors. The impact of these foundational skills on school readiness is clear in Oklahoma school superintendent Llyod Snow’s remarks on the benefits he saw to children in his kindergarten program, just one year after he began offering Prek in his district: 

“Our kids have better word recognition and letter recognition, better social skills, better hand-eye coordination skills, better-- just almost better everything, as it relates to readiness for school.”