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A+ in the News

A+ Education Partnership works to ensure that each Alabama student is offered the opportunity to excel, not just in education, but life. We are grateful for the many individuals who amplify our voice and garner attention for our advocacy work along the way. Some of the publications in which A+ Education Partnership and/or our work have been mentioned can be found below.



Gov. Kay Ivey signs 4 executive orders to improve education in Alabama
CBS 42, January 18, 2023

“A+ Education Partnership President Mark Dixon says the governor’s goals are just what the state needs. “We like a bold vision for where our students need to be and where our schools need to support them,” Dixon said.

Dixon says focusing on teachers and continuing to fund initiatives like the Literacy Act and Numeracy Act will also help meet those goals. “We need to make sure that our teachers are trained, that they have all the support they need. We also need to be creative about ways that we recruit them in the profession and then making sure that teachers are supported so that they stay in the classroom."

-Mark Dixon, President of A+ Education Partnership

Read the full article here.


Orr files major math education bill, includes Common Core prohibition
AP News, February 3, 2022

“Our students’ math skills simply aren’t where they need to be,” Melson said Thursday.

Information on the potential cost of the measures outlined in the bill was not immediately available. Because the requirements will be phased in over several years, Orr said the cost will be manageable.

“With over 75% of our students not proficient in math, we have a crisis in Alabama,” said Mark Dixon, president of A+ Education Partnership. “We need a comprehensive, statewide commitment to drastically improve student success in math. This means more teacher training and coaching support, high-quality instructional materials in every classroom, and interventions for struggling students.”

The bill also mandates that university education programs teach the same approved math curriculum to new teachers before they enter the classroom."


-Mary Sell of Alabama Daily News

Read the full article here.

Math support bill goes to full Senate
AP News, March 2, 2022

"The legislation states that starting in 2025, the state will have a “system of assistance and support for schools not showing specified levels of academic progress in mathematics, reading or both.” 

While the bill is being compared to the 2019 Literacy Act, it does not have the requirement that poor-performing students be held back in any grade.

“The science does not support retention in this bill,” Mark Dixon, president of A+ Education Partnership and an advocate for the bill, told the Senate education budget committee on Tuesday afternoon.

The bill does allow “intensive school turnaround programs” for low-performing schools that aren’t making progress on student achievement.

If after four years on such a plan the school does not progress, the local board of education has to either “mandate a complete reconstitution of the school” including removing all personnel and hiring new educators or apply to turn the schools into a charter school.

“You’re saying that the game plan is to turn these schools into charter schools?” State Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, asked Dixon. 

“That’s just an option,” Dixon said.

The bill was given a favorable report in committee on a 10-0 vote. Smitherman abstained, saying he hadn’t had time to read the 52-page substitute bill given to the committee Tuesday."

-Mary Sell of Alabama Daily News

Read the full article here.

Op-Ed: Alabama is Last in Math. The Numeracy Act Will Change That.
AP News, March 29, 2022

"Only 22% of Alabama students were proficient in math on the 2021 ACAP state assessment, including only 11% of low-income students and 7% of Black students.  This puts us dead last nationally. In addition, there are currently 28 K-5 schools that have 0% of students proficient in math.

Our students deserve better. In fact, they need better if they are to be prepared for the real world. The Alabama Legislature is considering a bill, the Alabama Numeracy Act (SB 171), to address this challenge with intensive teacher and student support. It is awaiting final passage in the House of Representatives today.

The Alabama Numeracy Act creates a comprehensive statewide plan to improve math achievement. The bill adds intensive support and funding for teachers and schools including: K-5 math coaches in every elementary school, training for teachers and principals, high-quality instructional materials and curricula for teachers to use in the classroom, intensive interventions for struggling students, and accountability to ensure schools are making progress. Although it is very similar to the Literacy Act, there is no student retention included.

Alabama voters care about getting this right for students. The most recent Alabama Daily News poll reported that about 56% of Republican voters support the Numeracy Act’s plan to modernize math education. Only 15% oppose it."

-Corinn O'Brien, VP of Policy at A+ Education Partnership

Read the full article here.

A+ Education Partnership launches COVID funds tracker, advocate toolkit
Alabama Daily News, May 18, 2022

"Alabama’s public K-12 schools have received more than $3 billion in federal COVID-19 relief since 2020 and a new website is tracking how each school system plans to spend their money.

The A+ Education Partnership on Tuesday launched the detailed money tracker and an “advocate toolkit” for effective spending of the federal money.

“This is $3.14 billion for public education in Alabama and it’s a huge opportunity for us to invest in our students, especially those of color and those from low-income families,” said Charity Gardner, A+ policy manager and project lead for the tracker. “We have to be able to say that this money had an impact on our students after these three years are up. And so we want to make sure that this money is invested well.”

The site breaks down per-system funding by the three tranches of money that have been allocated to schools during the pandemic: Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief I; Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief II; and American Rescue Plan Act Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief. Each allocation has different spending guidelines and the latter allocation was the largest at nearly $2 billion. "

                                                                                                                                   -Mary Sell of Alabama Daily News 

Read the full article here.

Alabama can't fumble the ball on $3 billion of COVID school relief
AP News, May 18, 2022

"To support COVID-19 recovery, Alabama schools are receiving $3.14 billion from the federal government. In some districts, this is over $10,000 per student, with the most money going to districts that need the most support. This is a once-in-a-lifetime investment in our schools. Think about the possible impact this amount of money could have. Do you know how your local school district is spending this money and if it is having an impact on Alabama’s last-in-the-nation achievement?

As the statewide advocate for great schools for every child, A+ Education Partnership believes it’s important that Alabama takes full advantage of this moonshot moment to drastically improve outcomes for our students. This is especially critical for students of color and from low-income families who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic and were already behind before it began.

Only 22% of Alabama students were proficient in math on the 2021 ACAP state assessment, including only 11% of economically-disadvantaged students and 7% of Black students. Only 32% of economically-disadvantaged students were reading on grade-level.

If we fumble this opportunity and aren’t able to demonstrate its impact on student success, many will feel like we wasted it. And, our students deserve every opportunity to not only recover, but flourish.  If we want our state leaders to continue investing money in schools, we need to show them that we are using it effectively. That is why our team has created the A+ COVID Spending Tracker, an easy-to-use online tool that helps you see how every school district in Alabama is spending their share of the funds. "

                                                                                                 -Corinn O'Brien, VP of Policy at A+ Education Partnership

Read the full article here.

A look at how Alabama schools are spending COVID relief funds
CBS 42, August 16, 2022

  "Schools in Alabama have received an unprecedented amount of money to combat learning loss and other impacts of the pandemic over the past two years. The state got roughly $3.14 billion through three rounds of federal funding.

“That’s an enormous amount of money. That’s about 12 times the amount of Title I federal funding a school would get in a year,” A+ Education Partnership President Mark Dixon said. Dixon is tracking how the schools are spending that money. The website organizes data on districts’ spending proposals.

“Every district had to submit a plan, and I think some are talking about their plans more publicly than others, and that’s part of the purpose of the tracker is to make this very easy to understand,” Dixon said."

                                                                                                                                                       -Maddie Biertempfel, CBS 42

Read the full article here.

AlabamaWorks: When it Comes to Measuring What Matters…Leadership Matters!
Alabama Daily News, October 31, 2022

"Through partnerships with the Alabama Community College System to expand dual enrollment options and credentialing options, partnerships with the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship to expand work-based learning options such as apprenticeship, and partnerships with A+ Education Partnership to expand access to Advanced Placement courses, we are doing the work to expand access to college and career readiness indicators that will truly prepare our students for the next step.

The ability for the State Board of Education to add additional indicators will help close any remaining gaps as we prepare for implementation in 2028. However, we hope that most of our schools will work to reach 100 percent college and career readiness prior to 2028.

We already have several shining examples of 100 percent college and career readiness, such as Piedmont City Schools with a graduation rate and college and career readiness rate of 100 percent for the Class of 2021 and Coffee County Schools with a graduation rate and college and career readiness rate of 99 percent, that should be emulated. "


                                                                                                                  -Tim McCartney and Joe Morton, Alabama Daily News

Read the full article here.

Op-Ed: Alabama students are making progress. Now, it’s time to double down.
Alabama Daily News, November 3, 2022

  "In terms of the NAEP rankings, Alabama is now 39th in 4th grade reading, up from 49th. We were one of only three states that made any gains at all, with all other states dropping significantly. This is a big deal. When we discuss education data, sometimes it’s easy to forget that these numbers represent actual students and teachers who have been working incredibly hard during these unimaginably challenging years. These results will have a lasting impact on the trajectory of our students for years to come.

These reading scores show that our statewide commitment and investment in early literacy is working. The Alabama Literacy Act that was passed pre-pandemic led to historic investments in teacher training in the science of reading, coaching, and effective tools in the classroom. Maintaining our momentum as our state leaders and educators fully implement this law is critical to ensuring that these small gains turn into big wins for our students and set them on a path for success."


                                                                                                 -Corinn O'Brien, VP of Policy at A+ Education Partnership

Read the full article here.


Smart Investments Needed to Combat Learning Loss
Alabama Daily News, March 10, 2021

"There has never been a more important moment to commit to sound, evidence-based education policy efforts and investments. Public education is at an inflection point. The decisions we make today can close educational and equity gaps within our state. Now is the time to act."

A+ VP of Policy, Dr. Matt L. Smith

To read more about important policy investments for the 2021 Legislative Session, check out our latest op-ed in the Alabama Daily News.

Advocates, business leaders again call for more pre-K funding, February 19, 2021

"Gov. Kay Ivey’s proposed 2021 budget, currently under consideration by the legislature, includes an additional investment of $24.4 million in First-Class Pre-K, for a total of nearly $150 million. That would increase the number of staff and sites available, and allow an estimated 3,000 children on waiting lists to enroll, bumping access up to 44% of Alabama 4-year-olds.

In a virtual press conference, some advocates also expressed support for Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskeegee, who has again introduced a bill for universal kindergarten. It still allows pathways for parents to enroll their children in private kindergarten programs or homeschool, but will encourage more children to be prepared for first grade, they said.

“We think this is a positive step in supporting our missing students and their return to school,” said Matt Smith, vice president of policy at A+ Education Partnership, referencing an estimated 3,000 children who are not in kindergarten this school year

Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, said she supports the additional funding, as well as some form of universal kindergarten. Warren’s bill was tweaked in committee and is now before the full House."

-Ruth Serven Smith,

Read the full article here.

COVID-19 makes kindergarten requirement bill ‘priority’
Alabama Daily News, February 11, 2021

"A bill to require Alabama public school students to attend kindergarten or take an assessment to go directly to first grade received its first vote of approval, passing the House Education Policy Committee Wednesday.

Mark Dixon, president of the A+ Education Partnership, called the policy change important for education outcomes, especially in light of the challenges stemming from the pandemic.

“If a child enters first grade without the foundational skills learned in kindergarten, it immediately sets them back and can have a lasting impact on their success in school,” Dixon said. “With more than 3,000 kindergarten-age children not enrolled in school due to COVID-19, the need for a strong foundation is more important than ever.”

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia require that children attend kindergarten, according to the Education Commission of the United States."

-Mary Sell of Alabama Daily News

Read the full article here.

We have 3 billion opportunities to invest in Alabama students, March 30, 2021

  "As a former high school teacher, principal, and administrator, I have witnessed firsthand how federal, state, and local policy decisions reverberate through our schools and impact the job we do everyday. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, these decisions have never been more important.

Over $3 billion of federal stimulus has been allocated to Alabama schools, and the Alabama Legislature is considering a historic $7.67 billion Education Trust Fund budget. It is critical that we balance the one-time federal dollars with ongoing state investments to solve the challenge of unfinished learning from COVID-19.

There has never been a more important moment to commit to sound, evidence-based education policy and investments that ensure students are supported and prepared. Public education is at an inflection point. The decisions we make today can begin to close educational and equity gaps within our state. Now is the time to act."

-Matt Smith, former VP of Policy at A+ Education Partnership

Read the full article here.

Governor Ivey Puts Students First with Veto of Literacy Act Delay, May 28, 2021

"The impact of the pandemic on students requires us to focus even more on literacy right now, not delay urgent action. Students need every support the Alabama Literacy Act provides. It assesses where students are. It provides interventions to help struggling readers as early as problems are identified. It trains teachers in the science of reading. It gives parents clear guidance on where their children have needs and how those needs are being addressed. Finally, it stops the practice of passing students along without the basic skills they need to succeed in school and the workforce. The Literacy Act is so much more than retention as a last resort - it’s all about ensuring every child can read.

Research shows that students who cannot read on grade level by fourth grade have little to no chance of graduating. Socially promoting students sets them up to fall further behind in other subjects, like math, which requires more word problems as students advance. A 2017 Harvard study showed students retained in third grade under a similar Florida law performed better than their peers in middle school, had higher GPAs in high school, and took fewer remedial courses.

Alabama is at a critical juncture in our efforts to improve literacy. With this veto, Governor Ivey sends a strong, clear message that full implementation of the Literacy Act is the commitment that is needed to ensure a bright future for all Alabama students."

-Mark Dixon, President of A+ Education Partnership

Read the full article here.

Another COVID side effect: Many kids head to summer school
AP News, June 9, 2021

  "Alabama has ramped up summer learning efforts, a spokesman for the Alabama State Department of Education said. From reading camps and free books to online math and science challenges, the state is encouraging parents and caregivers to take advantage of more summer resources being offered than ever before.

The Alabama Legislature considered adding a line item to the Education Trust Fund budget specifically funding after school and summer learning programs, but ultimately did not, with budget leaders saying federal money would be available for such purposes. Most summer school programs are still being coordinated by the local school district. In Montgomery, for example, more than 12,000 of the school system’s 28,000 students signed up before the June 1 deadline. Typically about 2,500 go to summer school.

However, not all summer programs offer a full day or full week of school, potentially creating problems for working parents.

Even before the pandemic, the state had been working to set up reading camps designed to reach early grade students who need help catching up. In addition to regional literacy specialists and greater teacher training, the Alabama Literacy Act, passed in 2019, provided summer reading camps to all K-3 students identified with a reading deficiency.

Mark Dixon, president of the A Plus Education Partnership, was a lead advocate for that law.

“High-quality summer learning is a real opportunity to accelerate our academic recovery from COVID-19,” Dixon said. “This is not traditional ‘summer school.’ Effective programs should be full-day with strong academics, but they also need engaging enrichment activities that keep students interested and coming back. Partnerships between local school districts and community organizations will be critical to making this work.”

-Carolyn Thompson of AP News

Read the full article here.

Last in math: Alabama politicians look for ways to close gap
AP News, November 14, 2021

  "Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey told state Board of Education members this week that she is supportive of developing a math counterpart to the Alabama Literacy Act.

“In the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to working with you to place the same sense of urgency on mathematics as we have rightfully placed on reading,” Ivey said

Asked if the governor supports a requirement to hold back fifth graders who don’t meet math benchmarks, spokeswoman Gina Maiola said, “improving mathematics education in Alabama will require a comprehensive plan that is informed by all stakeholders.

The 2019 Alabama Literacy Act will require third graders to meet reading benchmarks to be promoted to the fourth grade. The promotion requirement is set to take effect this spring. However, Ivey said she will ask lawmakers to delay the promotion requirement for one year.

Orr said he is working with subject-matter experts on the proposal.

“It’s no secret the state is last in math,” said Mark Dixon, president of the A+ Education Partnership. “We need a statewide commitment to improving math achievement.”

-Kim Chandler of AP News

Read the full article here.

Alabama students on COVID school year: Virtual school highlighted mental health needs, May 27, 2021

  “I am really passionate about acting and I hope to be able to do it as a career in the future,” she said. “I am very proud to have had the opportunity to share mine and others’ stories through something I am passionate about and bring light to the issues many students have faced this year.”

She created a video about what it was like to do the majority of her classes and schoolwork online over the past year. More teachers and students need to be aware of the pressure stress and isolation can place on mental health, she said."

Beavers is a member of the Student VOICES project, which helped the Ed Lab identify some students for this project. To find out more about A+ Education Partnership’s A+ Student VOICES Team, please visit its website.


-Mckinley Beavers,

Read the full article here.

Most Alabama students are back in-person, but racial disparities appear, March 24, 2021

“Students learning remotely now have, for the most part, been learning remotely for a year,” said Mark Dixon, president of A+ Education Partnership. “This is only going to exacerbate some existing concerns for our students.”

Dixon said he believes federal CARES money and data collected from state assessment tests will help direct ways for funding to plug gaps, especially for low-income, minority and rural students.

Some national studies have shown learning gaps for students of color and low-income students, particularly in remote-only districts. However, data and surveys also have shown that, when given the chance to return in-person, many Black families are more hesitant than white families, citing concerns about inadequate safety measures and general distrust of officials.

“The focus has to be on getting most, if not all, students back in-person as quickly as possible,” Dixon said. “And we have to work with districts to plan on how to do that safely, and how best to make up for lost ground.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         -Ruth Serven Smith,

Read the full article here.


COVID-19-caused dip in kindergarten enrollment concerns educators
Alabama Daily News, October 26, 2020

COVID-19-caused dip in kindergarten enrollment concerns educatorsThough general enrollment has increased, Alabama has seen a decrease in student enrollment for kindergarten programs statewide. This drop in enrollment is greatly fueled by the current pandemic and concerns about the safety of in-person learning. Since online instruction raises unique challenges for young learners, and kindergarten is not mandatory in Alabama, many parents have opted not to enroll their children this academic year. This change in enrollment raises many concerns for school leaders and officials, from budget restrictions and teacher lay-offs to instructional challenges and oversized student cohorts.

"Mark Dixon, president of A+ Education Partnership said that when the fuller drop off picture is known, more attention should be paid to the effect on student learning, not just budgets.

'While budgets are important, they can be fixed by the Legislature in the short-term,' Dixon said. 'The larger equity concern is for the long-term impact on our most vulnerable students, particularly those that don’t yet have access to high-quality pre-K.'"

–Mary Sell, Alabama Daily News

To read more about the statewide kindergarten enrollment decrease, check out this Alabama Daily News article.

Schools Reopen: Overcoming the Equity Challenges of COVID-19
Alabama Daily News, July 23, 2020


In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s back-to-school planning looks starkly different than ever before. School and district leaders are faced with difficult decisions regarding which modes of instruction will be most beneficial to students. Along with maintaining students’ health and safety, ensuring the high-quality instruction of those in underserved communities is a top priority.


Read A+ Education Partnership President Mark Dixon’s op-ed in the Alabama Daily News here.

School Calendar, Literacy Rollback Bills Stir Debate in State House
Alabama Daily News, March 11, 2020

“An Alabama senator wants to undo a major provision of the 2019 Alabama Literacy Act with legislation eliminating the mandate that students not reading on grade level must repeat the third grade.

In the House, another bill to require longer summer breaks has some powerful co-sponsors. Both bills were filed last week and are now awaiting committee action, but they are already stirring debate in the State House.”

                                              - Caroline Beck, Alabama Daily News

Read A+ Education Partnership President Mark Dixon’s comments on the Alabama Literacy Act and the importance of the third grade reading level benchmark in the Alabama Daily News here.


Alabama Still Hammering Out Details for Third-Grade Reading Hurdle, December 13, 2019

This year’s first-graders will be the first to have to meet the new standard or risk being held back after they finish the third grade. And recent test scores suggest about half of students could struggle, as just over half of Alabama’s third-graders last year did not test as proficient in reading."

              -Trisha Powell Crain,

Read the full article, featuring comments from A+ Education Partnership President Mark Dixon, at

State Board of Education Approves New Math Standards
WSFA, December 12, 2019

Alabama Power Foundation Marks 30 Years of Giving
Alabama News Center, December 6, 2019

'Alabama Power Foundation and Alabama Power Company have been a big supporter of ours since day one and over the years provided a lot of funding that really allows us to grow our mission, which is to create great schools for every child,” Dixon said. “We do two programs in schools – the Alabama Best Practices Center and A+ College Ready – and part of that is expanding great training for teachers and advanced placement programs for students. Alabama Power helped us fund those as a partner from the very beginning.'"

- Michael Tomberlin, Alabama News Center


To hear Mark Dixon and other supporters speak about the importance of the Alabama Power Foundation, check out this video. 

New Curriculum at Dothan Prep Challenges Some Teachers; Administrators Look to Get Involved
WTVY, November 12, 2019

After just two months of instruction at the new Dothan Preparatory Academy, the school's administration is prepared to implement several operational changes. Perhaps the greatest change is the plan to provide each individual grade level within the academy with its own assistant principal. Though many have adjusted well, this change will be implemented in an effort to assist teachers who have struggled with applying the academy’s new A+ College Ready curriculum.

To read more about the exciting changes underway at Dothan Prep, check out this WTVY story.

State Legislators, Pre-K Advocates Visit Coleman Center to Examine Future of Early Education
Dothan Eagle, November 12, 2019

"State legislators and pre-kindergarten advocates visited the Coleman Center for Early Learning and Family Enrichment on Troy-Dothan’s campus Tuesday to tour the site and discuss the future of early childhood education.

The Coleman Center is a first-of-its-kind program serving as a three-way intersection for high-quality learning for children, education opportunity for Troy University students studying early education and human services, and research."

-Sable Riley, Dothan Eagle 


Alabama’s Dead-Last Test Scores Wake-Up Call for Officials, November 1, 2019

Remember When We Could Say “Thank Goodness for Mississippi?", October 31, 2019

-Mark Dixon, President of A+ Education Partnership

Read Mark Dixon’s suggestions for how Alabama can bring meaningful change to its educational system in this op-ed on

More Pay, Better Retirement Part of Pitch to Solve Alabama Teacher Shortage, October 12, 2019

'Nearly every district---it’s easy to say every district---has been impacted by this shortage,' Alabama Deputy Superintendent Jeff Langham told state school board members Thursday in Montgomery.

A statewide task force composed of 18 education officials—mostly superintendents—has been working since January to make recommendations on how to deal with the shortage.

-Trisha Powell Crain,

To learn more about Alabama's teacher shortage, check out this task force report and read the full article here.

West Limestone, East Limestone named Schools of Distinction
The News Courier, September 17, 2019

"West Limestone and East Limestone high schools were recently named A+ College Ready Schools of Distinction, with Ardmore High School earning its first title as a School of Excellence.

As of this year, all six Limestone County high schools are part of the A+ College Ready program, which provides training for educators, stipends for Advanced Placement teachers and incentives for students. Limestone County Schools Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction Brad Lewis said East Limestone and West Limestone high schools each increased the number of students who took AP exams and earned qualifying scores of 3 or better on a 5-point scale.

The schools have also been named Schools of Excellence for multiple years in a row, which earned them each the title of 'School of Distinction.' This is the first year Ardmore has earned the 'School of Excellence' title."

–Jessica Barnett, The News Courier


Read more about these high schools' earned distinctions in this News Courier article.

Sen. Doug Jones: Teacher Shortage is ‘Very Complicated’, August 24, 2019

Jones said the teacher shortage problem here and nationwide is 'very complicated,' and there are multiple things communities need to consider in addressing the problem.

'Teachers are really one of the backbones of society,' Jones said in opening remarks to around 50 people at the University of Montevallo. 'We’ve got a shortage not just of teachers,' he added, but also the problem that there are 1,700 uncertified teachers in Alabama’s classrooms.

There is a long-standing, chronic teacher shortage in areas like math, science, special education and foreign language, Birmingham Education Foundation’s J.W. Carpenter said. Increasingly, he said, the shortage is extending to teachers of English learners, too."

–Trisha Powell Crain,

To read more about Alabama's teacher shortage, along with recommendations for resolving this issue, check out this article.

A New Challenge: A+ Making AP Classes Available for Every Morgan County Student
Decatur Daily, July 10, 2019

"Decatur High students Lucy Sedlak, Kate Bouchillon and Neelie Miller started their college plans two years ago when Decatur City Schools became part of the A+ College Ready network.
The first part of the plan was to take classes that would be as rigorous as college classes, something the trio said they accomplished.
Secondly, they wanted to take and pass classes that would earn them college credit. This, too, they accomplished.
Beginning in August when school resumes, the same classes that challenged Sedlak, Bouchillon and Miller will be available to every public school student in Morgan County.
West Morgan and Danville — the only schools not in the network — are joining the A+ program, which started with a $13.2 million grant in 2008 and gives students an opportunity to take classes that will count toward college credit if they achieve a qualifying score."

–Deangelo McDaniel, Decatur Daily 

To read more about the impact of A+ College Ready in schools, check out this Decatur Daily article.

Statewide Teacher Training Takes Place at Thompson High School
Shelby County Reporter, June 27, 2019

"A four-day program held at Thompson High School June 18-21 brought together educators from all over the state to participate in training sessions aimed at helping them provide students with more enriching and engaging academic experiences.

The program, offered by A+ College Ready, allowed 475 math, science, English, social studies and computer science teachers in sixth through 12th grade to participate in the training sessions at no cost to them. Mark Dixon, president of A+ Education Partnership, said the goal of A+ College Ready is to increase access to advanced placement courses in high school.

'With this training session, we’re training up teachers at the middle school level so the students can excel at the high school level,' he said. 'They start learning analytical and critical thinking skills in sixth grade and continue using and building upon these skills on up through high school.'"

–Briana Harris, Shelby County Reporter

To learn more about how A+ College Ready prepares educators throughout Alabama to provide students with exceptional educational opportunities, check out this Shelby County Reporter article.

Mark Dixon: The Alabama Literacy Act is Good for Children
Alabama Daily News, May 21, 2019

"Last week, the Alabama House of Representatives voted 92-3 to pass the Alabama Literacy Act (HB 388) with bipartisan support. The Senate will consider HB 388 bill this week.

Every child deserves the opportunity and support to become an excellent reader. As a result, we support the core tenets of this bill:


  • Renewed focus on pre-k to third grade reading
  • Targeted funding and resources to improve reading instruction
  • Stronger teacher preparation in college to ensure new teachers are prepared for science-based reading instruction
  • Early identification and additional support for students with dyslexia and other specific needs

The bottom line is that children who cannot read on grade level by the fourth grade are unlikely to graduate."

–Mark Dixon, President of A+ Education Partnership

To read more about why A+ supports the core tenets of the Alabama Literacy Act, read Mark Dixon's article in the Alabama Daily News.

Local School Leaders Wary of Proposed Common Core Ban
Anniston Star, March 30, 2019

Some Alabama officials are ready to cut ties with Common Core curriculum, while others believe a change in academic standards will do more harm than good.
Dixon noted that the NAEP, the best national measure of state-by-state progress, doesn’t include much information on students in higher grades —  though Alabama schools have seen a marked decrease in students in need of remediation when they get to college.Asked if an end to Common Core would threaten college-readiness programs, Dixon said it wouldn’t help.'If we keep changing the playbook, we’re not going to get students where they need to be,' he said."
–Tim Lockette of The Anniston Star and Gary Hanner and David Atchison of the Daily Home
 To learn more about this topic, read this article in The Anniston Star.

Now it’s Time for Alabama to Refocus on Education, Pre-K Program a Model, March 18, 2019

  • Ensure all students read on grade level: Refocus our efforts on the early grades to ensure all students have the support they need to read on grade level by fourth grade.
  • Expand computer science education: Support and require computer science education to prepare students for the changing workforce. Computing occupations are the number one
    source of new wages in the U.S, according to
  • Strengthen teacher recruitment and retention: Support the proposed 4% teacher pay raise as one aspect of strengthening the teacher pipeline and ensuring students are taught by the best and brightest.
  • Streamline Alabama’s public charter school process: Common sense updates to Alabama’s public charter school law will drive increased quality, efficiency and opportunities for students.

Implementing these manageable steps will continue to improve public education for students across the state. There is no quick fix to magically solve our educational challenges. We must implement a broad array of effective solutions that will build the education system our children deserve."


–Mark Dixon, President of A+ Education Partnership


Investments in meaningful pre-k experiences and increases in availability of AP courses have already positively impacted Alabama's students. Read Mark Dixon's op-ed on to learn more about how legislators can push for further improvements to Alabama's education system.

Legislature 2019: It Ain’t All About the Gas Tax
Alabama Daily News, March 12, 2019

"On the evening of March 5, Gov. Ivey stood in the Old House Chamber of the State Capitol and outlined her plan for the coming legislative session in her State of the State Address. Much of her address focused on issues like the gas tax and prisons, but education issues also played an important role.

Since taking office, Gov. Ivey and her staff have worked to implement her Strong Start. Strong Finish. education agenda. As she begins her first full term, we’re pleased that education continues to be an important focus of her administration."

–Thomas Rains, A+ Education Partnership, Vice President of Policy and Operations


The following three education items mentioned by Gov. Ivey stood out to us at A+ Education Partnership: expansion of first class pre-k, support for computer science education, and pay raises for teachers.

To read more about why we believe these actions are critical to improving Alabama's education system, check out this article in the Alabama Daily News.

Former Gov. Riley Adviser, GE Leader Named President of Alabama Nonprofit
Birmingham Business Journal, January 4, 2019

"An education-focused nonprofit has a new leader with a strong political background.

Birmingham native Mark Dixon will succeed A+ Education Partnership’s current president Caroline Novak, who co-founded the organization in 1991.

Home of the Alabama Best Practices Center and A+ College Ready, A+ was created to unite business, civic, government and education leaders in improving opportunity and achievement for Alabama students. The organization works to pair best policies with best practices, advocating for advancements in public education statewide."

–Hanno van der Bijl, Birmingham Business Journal


Read more about Mark Dixon, the newly named president of A+ Education Partnership, in this Birmingham Business Journal article.

Mark Dixon Tapped to Lead A+ Education Partnership
Alabama News Center, January 3, 2019

"The A+ Education Partnership has hired Mark Dixon as its new president.

A native of Birmingham, Dixon works as a senior manager with General Electric based in Washington, D.C. Before moving to Washington, Dixon served as education policy adviser to former Alabama Gov. Bob Riley.

Dixon succeeds Caroline Novak, who co-founded A+ in 1991 and built the organization to become a driver for improving student performance and a key influencer of education reform policies. A+ is home to the Alabama Best Practices Center, which helps teachers develop core competencies, and A+ College Ready, which aims to drive student performance through promoting rigorous coursework, including Advanced Placement."

–Todd Stacy, Alabama NewsCenter


Learn more about Mark Dixon's background and what he will bring to the table at A+ Education Partnership in this Alabama NewsCenter article.


The Best of 2018: Advocates Nominate Network MVP, Game-Changing Policy & More
PIE Network, September 21, 2018

Each year, the PIE Network gives out advocate-nominated awards, the Eddies!, to celebrate exemplar education policymaking and advocacy campaigns.

This year, A+ Education Partnership received nominations in the Most Actionable Research and Best Ensemble Cast categories. The Most Actionable Research Eddie! covers resources or tools that were broadly leveraged across the Network and helped advocates make compelling cases for policy change. The Best Ensemble Cast Eddie! features coalitions that were artfully organized to respond to particular opportunities or challenges in their states that contributed to a policy win and is worthy of replication.

A+ Education Partnership President and Co-Founder Caroline Novak also received an Eddie! nomination for the Network MVP category. The Network MVP Eddie! recognizes a team member of a PIE Network state-based member organization who has gone above and beyond to support advocates across state lines.


To read more about why A+ Education Partnership and Caroline Novak were nominated for these awards, check out this page on the PIE Network's website.

Leadership Matters: Showcasing the Value of Effective Leaders in Improving Education
PIE Network, August 24, 2018

"A new report examines the crucial role leadership plays in shaping educational outcomes, in addition to showcasing examples where leadership is making a difference, supported by data showing students are achieving higher levels of success.

Network member A+ Education Partnership provided research support and consultation for Leadership Matters, a report from the Business Education Alliance prepared by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.

According to Caroline Novak, president and co-founder of A+ Education Partnership, the report emphasizes the critical need for effective leadership and cites specific examples of what that looks like in practice. Six different leadership action plans are highlighted, including: statewide efforts to improve student achievement in Mississippi, business and industry leadership in the Tuscaloosa area, and effective strategies from four Alabama school systems."

–Christina Dobratz, The PIE Network


Read more about the Leadership Matters report in this PIE Network article.

Computer Science Education Expanding in Alabama
Travel Knowledge, Fall 2018

"Every time you choose your smartphone and open an app, or positioned guidelines on your GPS, you’re profiting from computer technology.

Technology touches nearly every element of our lives now, and every career field, it’s why some Alabama instructors are pushing to make laptop technology part of every student’s training.

'When I first commenced teaching here in 2007 there have been two other schools in the country that taught computer science,' says Yarbrough. 'I turned into truly bowled over that so few students in our nation got the threat to examine laptop technology.'

Now about 130 of Alabama’s greater than 1,600 high colleges provide laptop science instructions at some stage, however most effective about a dozen offer the superior publications. Teachers like Yarbrough are running to alternate that. She’s part of Governor Kay Ivey’s new Computer Science Education Advisory Council, that’s working to get pc science lessons in every Alabama excessive school."

–Jeremy D. Mena, Travel Knowledge


To read more about the importance of computer science education in Alabama's schools, check out this article.

Top 40 Alabama Blogs & News Websites To Follow in 2018
Feedspot, Fall 2018

The media website Feedspot recently released a list of the top 45 Alabama blogs and news websites to follow. The list was curated by a team of experts who utilized a thoughtful combination of both algorithmic and human editing.

A+ Education Partnership's Alabama Best Practices Center was impressively ranked at number eight on this list of the top 45 Alabama blogs and news websites to follow. To read the Alabama Best Practices Center's most recent blog posts, visit their website. To view Feedspot's entire list of top blogs and news websites to follow, check out this article on their website.

Want to Curb School Violence?
Atlanta Journal Constitution, August 4, 2018

"The spate of this year’s deadly school shootings, from suburban Parkland, Florida, to rural Marshall County, Kentucky, and the urban landscapes of Chicago and Baltimore, is a heartbreaking reminder that schools are struggling to be what they once were: safe spaces where young people can freely learn and grow.

While it’s tempting to view school violence in the context of the gun-control debate, at its core, this issue is about more than politically charged topics like gun rights. It’s also about the growing need for schools to support the overall well-being of their students.

A recent report, Accelerating the Pace: The Future of Education in the American South, released by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education and six other Southeastern advocacy organizations in the Columbia Group, spotlights this issue. It provides an overview of the perspectives of students, parents, educators and others across the South on how to improve schools and learning. Each group offers some valuable guidance on the issue for us as policymakers, business leaders, and parents."

–Steve Dolinger and Diane Hopkins of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education,

Atlanta Journal Constitution

To read more about the struggles faced by educators and students in the South, along with how some people are tackling these issues, check out this article originally published by The Atlanta Journal Constitution.


Teachers Getting Trained for A+ College Ready Classes
Decatur Daily, July 19, 2018

"In a hall at Hartselle High School, teachers Taylor Christopher of Decatur Middle, Julie Leonardi of Falkville and John Johnson of Sulligent discussed a method for teaching students how to include quotes in writings.

'We’re playing different roles and learning from each other,' Leonardi said.

They are also among more than 700 teachers from across the state who are receiving training through A+ College Ready’s new 'E3' training sessions, which are designed to 'equip, empower and expect more' for education.

'We’re raising the rigor and the process begins with training,' Morgan County Superintendent Bill Hopkins Jr. said.

Falkville and Priceville are joining A+ College Ready this year, and Hopkins said West Morgan and Danville will be in the program the following year. Hartselle High was the first Decatur-area school system to join the program almost a decade ago, and Austin and Decatur became part of A+ last year.

The program, which started with a $13.2 million grant in 2008, gives students an opportunity to take classes that will count toward college credit if they achieve a qualifying score. AP exams are scored on a 1-5 scale, with 3 considered a qualifying score. Participating schools receive comprehensive teacher training and support for Advanced Placement students and teachers, as well as training for teachers in grades 6-11 in math and grades 6-10 in science, English, social studies and computer science."


–Deangelo McDaniel, Decatur Daily

To view this article online with a subscription to Decatur Daily, visit this link.

Op-ed: A Crossroads for Education in Alabama
Anniston Star, May 17, 2018

"Alabama is approaching an education crossroads.

Many of the state officials in charge of education will begin new terms next year. Gov. Kay Ivey or her successor will begin a full term in office, and a record number of newcomers will be sworn into the House and Senate for the new quadrennium. The State Board of Education will have two members to replace Betty Peters and Mary Scott Hunter, who are not running for reelection.

With these elections on the horizon and Dr. Eric Mackey beginning his tenure as state superintendent, it’s time for Alabama to set new goals for education to ensure all students are college and career ready—to ensure they are ready for real life—by the time they graduate.

A new report from A+ Education Partnership and a coalition of its peers from across the South urges Alabama and the entire region to make a new commitment to improve K-12 education. A+ joined its counterparts in Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee to produce the report.


'Accelerating the Pace: The Future of Education in the American South' shows that while Alabama and the South have made major advances in education in recent decades, some 'achievement gaps' between more affluent students and historically disadvantaged classmates have widened."

–Thomas Rains, Vice President of Operations and Policy, A+ Education Partnership

Op-Ed in The Anniston Star 

To view this article online with a subscription to The Anniston Star, visit this link.

A+ Education Partnership Urging Eric Mackey to Implement New Changes
Alabama Today, May 16, 2018

"Alabama’s A+ Education Partnership, a Montgomery-based non-profit, called on newly chosen State Superintendent, Eric Mackey to focus his efforts on implementing four new education policies the partnership believes will boost student achievement across the state.

Mackey, who beat out Hoover City Schools Superintendent Kathy Murphy and Jefferson County Superintendent Craig Pouncey for the position in late April, started working in his new position on Monday.

'We have worked closely with Dr. Mackey for many years, and we look forward to continuing this partnership with him as our State Superintendent of Education,' said president of A+ Education Partnership, Caroline Novak.

'Dr. Mackey is keenly aware of the challenges facing Alabama’s schools, and he knows that change will not occur overnight. Our proposals are commonsense steps that can make an immediate impact for all children. We encourage his consideration and support as he works to unite Alabamians for educational progress.'"

Alabama Today


To read about the changes A+ Education Partnership has encouraged Mackey to implement, check out this Alabama Today article.

Alabama High School Students Prepping for Advanced Placement Exams
Fox 6 WBRC, May 18, 2018

"Many Alabama high school students are preparing to take their Advanced Placement exams in hopes of earning college credit.

Since 2008, Alabama has seen a huge increase in the number of students that pass the exams. In fact, the number has almost tripled since that time.

Educators say part of the reason why is there has been more of an emphasis placed on the program at both the state and local levels.

The A+ College Ready AP Initiative rotates through schools across the state and provides support for AP students and teachers.

'Some of them, they've had AP a long time, others it may be their first or second year. So you go and you help them start figuring out this is what you got to know, this is what you've got to do to get credit,' said John Recke, Mortimer Jordan High School AP teacher, who is also a consultant for the program."

–John Huddleston, WRBC

To view this full story on WRBC's website, click here.

A-F School Grading is a Conversation Starter, Not a Condemnation, March 7, 2018

"Community engagement is essential to the success of our local schools. We all have a stake in public schools, because the future of Alabama sits in classrooms from Florence to Dothan and everywhere in between.

–Thomas Rains, Vice President of Operations and Policy,
A+ Education Partnership
To learn more about how the adoption of letter grades will impact Alabama's education system, read Thomas Rains' op-ed on

A+ College Ready Program Gives County Students an Edge
The News Courier, May 1, 2018

"Two more Limestone County schools have decided to better prepare their students for the future by enrolling in A+ College Ready, a program that helps schools and districts offer more Advanced Placement courses and prepare more Alabama students for the rigors of college.

During the 2017-2018 school year, both Clements and Tanner High School noticed how successful the program was at the other four high schools in the district and decided it was time to give their students the same academic edge.

After all, schools who have adopted A+ College Ready programs are reporting major gains. According to a brochure published by the college-readiness program, Alabama has ranked No. 1 in the nation since the program was founded in 2008 for percent increase in qualifying scores in AP math, science and English exams."

The News Courier

To read more about the impact of the A+ College Ready program on schools throughout Alabama, check out this article in The News Courier.

Alabama Seeks to Broaden Computer Science Education Opportunities
PIE Network, April 5, 2018

"Though Alabama was previously one of the worst-ranked states in computer science education offerings per capita, the state has since risen to a #2 nationwide ranking. Recently, the state’s first-ever Computer Science Education Summit brought together educators, advocates, policymakers, industry representatives, and other stakeholders to discuss further broadening computer science education opportunities in Alabama.

A+ College Ready, a program of A+ Education Partnership, partnered with the Alabama Governor’s office and the Governor’s Computer Science Task Force to host the event, which featured speakers including founder Hadi Partovi.

As a regional partner of, A+ College Ready helps provide training and resources for Alabama teachers on how to incorporate the CSE standards and best practices into the classrooms. Alabama had 86 teachers prepared to teach AP Computer Science Principles in its inaugural school year, 2016-17, and increased that number to 111 for 2017-18."

The PIE Network

For more information on the Computer Science Education Summit, check out this article on the PIE Network.