Alabama’s Educational Vital Signs

A report released in September from Change the Equation (CTEq), sheds light on Alabama’s progress in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It also recommends priority actions for Alabama’s education leaders.

The 2012 Vital Signs national report is a collaborative between CTEq and the American Institutes for Research, and is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It comprehensively measures the STEM performance of public schools in the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, and helps identify their “unique challenges” preparing students for college and careers in the global, competitive market.
For Alabama, the report recognized “significant” increases since 2003 in student achievement in math, as well as an improvement in student science engagement. The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) credits in a news release the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI), which began in 2000, for the progress made in Alabama’s public schools.

While Alabama students have made math gains – up seven points (from 262 to 269) according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) – they still have a way to go to meet the NAEP proficiency standard of 299.

However Alabama “is raising the bar,” says the report of the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards, which the state used as a basis to develop its College- and Career-Ready standards. The report mentions the need for Alabama to make closing the economic and minority achievement gaps a high priority. State superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice has said the department’s PLAN 2020 strategies for student achievement and assessment go beyond the national standards and makes achievement for every student – regardless of his or her personal challenges – a state priority.

Some of the report’s recommendations are: ease the transition between high school and college; stretch the STEM education investment; and improve teacher preparation and support.

“PLAN 2020 addresses the majority of the recommendations and areas of improvement needed,” said Dr. Bice. “(The plan includes) a shift from Adequate Yearly Progress to College and Career Readiness defined as a graduate not in need of remediation in two and four-year colleges; and a new assessment and accountability system based on college and career readiness with the ACT w/writing as the capstone measure rather than the graduation exam.”

Click here to review the full 2012 Vital Signs report.