The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) released the anticipated list of schools identified as “failing” as mandated by the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) passed by the Alabama Legislature last session.
The law requires the ALSDE to develop a list of “failing” schools based on the criteria that the school scored in the bottom 6% of all Alabama public schools for at least three of the last six years, excluding schools with special student populations.
At the news conference, State Superintendent Tommy Bice urged members of the media to be explicit about the criteria that placed schools on the list. Additionally, he encouraged the media to print the results by each listed school so citizens could see whether a school was making improvements. “It’s important for you (the news media) to report more than just a list of schools,” said Dr. Tommy Bice, State Superintendent. “The numbers communicate the real story of how many schools on this list are on an upward trajectory and making remarkable improvements. Parents need to know that to make informed decisions.”
Dr. Bice also emphasized that the schools that have been identified to show a downward trajectory – or have remained stagnant in meeting proficiency – will be targeted for strategic and aggressive support to help them improve.
“One positive about having this list is that it gives us an opportunity to find where the most work is needed and where progress is being made,” Dr. Bice said. “We have many schools unfortunately on this list that should be held as model schools for how to dramatically improve.”
Below are examples of such schools and the proficiency scores from 2007 to 2012:
Parents with children in one of the listed schools, explained Dr. Bice, may decide to remain in the school if they are aware that it has made significant improvements over the past two years. “Parents need all of the information to make an informed decision.”
Other clarifications of the AAA law were provided during the news conference, such as the process for parents who decide to transfer their students.
First, families of students zoned for the listed schools will receive notification from their school between now and August 1st. They will be given three choices; 1) remain in the school, 2) transfer to another non-listed public school within the same system, 3) negotiate with another non-listed public school in an adjacent school system for a transfer or seek enrollment in a state-approved non-public school.
Under the law, the credit will not apply to students transferring out of the public school to a homeschool or online school. Also, schools outside of their system and private schools are not required to accept any student.
If a student transfers outside of their current system or to a non-public school, the family is responsible for transportation costs. However, that is considered one of the costs offset by the tax credit, which is $3,500 per child, per year.
The Alabama State Department of Revenue released information clarifying that students already enrolled in private schools are not be eligible for the tax credit.
The proposed rules state:
- Students would have to attend a “failing school” for at least one semester to be eligible for tax credits that could be used to offset the cost of transferring them to a “non-failing” public school or a private school. According to al.com, the requirement of one semester of attendance is meant to prevent students from enrolling in a school on the “failing school” list for just a few days to qualify for the tax credit, and then transferring to another school. There are two exceptions to this rule: 1) Kindergarteners would be eligible for the tax credits if they are zoned for a school on the “failing school” list. 2) Families who make a “bona fide move” to a zone of a school on the list would be eligible for the tax credits.
- Private schools must enroll students on scholarship through the scholarship portion of the AAA in order for students at that school to be eligible for the tax credits.
- Organizations providing scholarships must be approved by the Department of Revenue.
The Department of Revenue has set up a webpage with more detail on the AAA.