Alabama is setting a standard for pre-kindergarten. Alabama First Class Pre-K, now available to 44% of eligible four year old's, will enroll 70% by 2025. Its students were significantly more likely to perform better than their peers on reading and math tests beyond elementary school. Alabama is one of only a handful of states to reach all 10 benchmarks set by the National Institute for Early Education Research — which ranks state preschool programs — and is the only state to meet them 15 years in a row. The program began in 2001 as a pilot and grew slowly, learning what worked with a small number of teachers and students before expanding, experts say.