Sen. Dick Brewbaker, the Senate Education Committee chair and sponsor of SB190 delayed committee action on his bill, he said, to clear up any confusion on the bill which, if passed, would repeal Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards (ACCRS), prevent the use of data to improve student achievement, and require future academic standards to be approved by the Legislature.
The House has introduced an identical bill (HB254), which has not yet advanced to the floor for vote.
The Senate committee meeting took place a week after the Legislature held a public hearing February 27th when dozens of teachers, superintendents, parents and business leaders spoke out in opposition to the bills.
“I ask that you embrace the work of Alabama educators and support them in what has been a three-year journey of improvement,” was the appeal from State Superintendent Tommy Bice to the Alabama Senate Education Committee and House Education Policy Committee. Bice began the hearing outlining several facts to help inform the committee members and debunk the misinformation that led to the drafting of these bills:
- Alabama voluntarily chose to use the Common Core State Standards to develop its College and Career Ready Standards, without coercion from the federal government, any other state or private interest. (Source: May 14, 2009 Resolution, citing SBOE’s approval.)
- The Alabama SBOE did not accept the standards sight unseen, but rather approved them after a committee of Alabama teachers and administrators spent months of examining the standards and comparing and contrasting them to Alabama’s previous standards. Also, public hearings open to parents and community members were held statewide to explain the standards and public input was accepted. (See A+ archive report)
- The SBOE adopted in 2010 the standards after careful study, discussion and public hearings. (Source: November 18, 2010 Resolution citing that the SBOE “will continue to be the sole and exclusive entity vested with the authority, without restriction, to adopt or revoke all academic standards in all subjects for students in the public schools in the state of Alabama.”)
- The SBOE reaffirmed its commitment to the standards in 2011 with a resolution to secure its sovereignty over Alabama standards. (Source: November 10, 2011 Resolution citing that “any federal government action, through administrative fiat or congressional act, to dictate or prescribe a particular set of academic content standards or to dictate how such standards are to be implemented is an intrusion into the states’ long-standing established rights and responsibilities to deliver K-12 education that violates fundamental principles of federalism.”)
- Alabama is not a “Race to the Top” federal grant recipient and does not give individual student data to the US Dept. of Education.
- Alabama is not collecting or distributing personal student or teacher data, and only collects non-personal, aggregate data to meet the requirements of No Child Left Behind and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Dr. Bice presented to the committee documentation of the data that is collected. (See ALSDE website for accountability data)
- Alabama is replacing the graduation exam with end-of-course exams and the ACT. It is not part of either consortia developing assessments based on the Common Core. (See Alabama’s Plan 2020)
- Alabama teachers and administrators have full responsibility and control over choosing the curriculum and instructional materials – including classic literature, fiction, non-fiction and informational text – with only the end requirement being the students are able to meet the state standards. (Click here to read article addressing Common Core myths in curriculum.)
Along with Dr. Bice, many Alabama citizens who are closest in working with the standards — including teachers, parents, district superintendents and business leaders – spoke out against the bills.
Dave Borden, CPA and former member of Montgomery Public School Board, shared the following illustration:
“As a business person, can you imagine an Alabama business with no financial statement to measure performance; or a manufacturer of automobile engines not able to test engines and examine historical trends; or a farmer who is not able to measure weight gain on their cattle to maximize feed and other performance inputs?
“We know Alabama children are more important than any of these, yet this bill’s ban on longitudinal data systems denies our educators this very ability to see with clarity the results of their work, and more importantly, what steps they can take to improve schools for teachers and students,” Borden said. “We expect world class businesses to do this and much more. We should encourage – not deny those entrusted with our most precious resources to do the same.”
Borden is also the Immediate Past President of the Montgomery Education Foundation.
SBOE member Mary Scott Hunter spoke on behalf of the Board in support of its collective action to approve the ACCRS.
“This board will never, never, never give up sovereignty,” Hunter said during her testimony, explaining the SBOE made a “good decision” in adopting ACCRS and that it maintains complete authority over the standards and their implementation. “Let’s not unravel ourselves because we have an argument with Washington.”
Several superintendents explained that having standards benefits thousands of Alabama’s military families. Currently without state-to-state consistency in basic standards, military children find it very difficult to maintain a forward advancement in their education without either being far behind or far ahead of students in other states. Incorporating the Common Core State Standards into Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards resolves this for military families.
Public schools have already implemented the new math standards and are busy working on the English/language arts standards to implement them during the 2013-14 school year. Several educators testified during the hearing the progress they are seeing because of the new methods used in teaching the standards.
Amy Lowe, a 5th grade teacher at George Hall Elementary School in Mobile, testified to the committee members that the new math standards were making a tremendously positive impact on her students. “One of my students that used to aspire to be a professional football player, now says he wants to be a mathematician,” said Lowe. She attributed the student’s change of heart to the way the standards inspire new methods of teaching math.
“Please don’t repeal our standards. They’re our standards; they’re also my standards,” said Lowe. “I have ownership in these standards. Come to my school, and see for yourself.”
Proponents of the bills expressed fear that the Alabama standards could be a “federal intrusion” into Alabama public schools, with some testifying that the standards are intended to “indoctrinate children with socialistic values.” However, there was no evidence presented during the hearing to justify such claims, and all questions that the committee members asked were answered satisfactorily by Dr. Bice and other education leaders the committee called upon.
“I don’t understand why anyone would want to repeal these standards,” said Alabama’s current Teacher of the Year, Suzanne Culbreth, during the public hearing. Currently, Culbreth teaches high school math in the Hoover City School system.
“We’ve always had standards. The College and Career Ready Standards are good standards, and are what’s best for our students,” said Culbreth. “Alabama students are up to the challenge.”
Below are links to several media stories from the public hearing:
- Bice asks Legislature to spare common core; critics call it a federal intrusion
- Senate Committee will decide the future of Common Core repeal bill next week, sponser says
Written by Evan Belanger, AL.com
- Misguided movement to to nullify Common Core slowed for now, but don’t take anything for granted (editorial)
Joey Kennedy, The Birmingham News
Written by Tim Lockette, The Anniston Star
Written by Mike Marshall, director of statewide commentary for the Alabama Media Group Editorial Board, published on AL.com
Published in Times Daily (Florence, AL)