Dr. Barbara Cooper leads Start Early’s strategy to support and advance the early childhood workforce and oversee scaling the organization’s professional learning enterprise for professionals working in prenatal through Pre-K.
Dr. Cooper has made a remarkable impact at every stop throughout her career. In July 2020, she was appointed by Alabama Governor Kay Ivey as the Secretary of Early Childhood Education and also served as the Governor’s Birth through Grade 12 policy advisor. Starting in 2018, she played a crucial role in the administration of Alabama’s esteemed First Class Pre-K program as a part of the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. Her contributions have significantly impacted the quality of early education in Alabama, garnering national recognition and serving as a model for others.
Prior to joining the department, she was appointed by the Alabama State Board of Education to serve as the Chief Administrative Officer during the Montgomery Public Schools Intervention where she worked to improve leadership and governance. Dr. Cooper’s administrative career is extensive as she has previously served as Deputy State Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer of the Alabama State Department of Education, Deputy Superintendent of Huntsville City Schools, Chief Equity and Engagement Officer of Aurora Public Schools (Colorado) and a Principal with Denver Public Schools. She has teaching experience ranging from elementary to teacher and administrative instruction.
Dr. Cooper obtained her Certificate in Early Education Leadership from the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. She holds a Doctorate in Education Leadership and Innovation, as well as a Master of Science in Administration, Supervision, and Curriculum Development, both from the University of Colorado at Denver. Additionally, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Education from Western Illinois University. A native of Chicago, Dr. Cooper now lives in Montgomery, Alabama, with her husband, Walter. They have three adult children and two grandchildren.