Across the Board: Key Takeaways from the January ALBOE Meeting

Recapping important education policy decisions for you

This week, A+ introduces a new monthly blog series dedicated to keeping you informed about key policy discussions and decisions made by the Alabama State Board of Education and the Alabama State Department of Education. The Alabama State Board of Education meets on the second Thursday of each month to discuss important policies, procedures, and changes for Alabama’s K-12 public schools. You can watch them live and see old meetings here.

Each month, we will break down our key takeaways from the meeting – and what they mean for Alabama students.  

January 2021 Meeting

On Thursday, January 14, the State Board of Education convened for their monthly board meeting and work session. Here are 6 takeaways from yesterday’s meeting:

>State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey provides updates on the Vaccination Schedule for School Staff 

Dr. Mackey shared that all K-12 school staff are in Vaccination Group 1B, meaning they are next in line in the state to receive a vaccine. Priority in this group will first be given to adults 75 and over as well as first responders. While this prioritized group will be eligible to receive the vaccine beginning January 19th, Dr. Mackey estimated that school staff may not begin receiving the vaccination until late February or early March.

Current vaccines require two shots: an initial dose, a second dose 28 days later, and then another 7 days to develop maximum immunity. Given this timeline and available vaccine supply, Dr. Mackey stated that it is unlikely all teachers will be fully vaccinated before the end of the school year. 

Dr. Mackey also commented that we are (at minimum) a year away from an approved vaccine for students.


>Board approves recommendations from the State Textbook Committee for the adoption of new textbooks for Mathematics  

This will be the first time the new K-12 math textbooks will be purchased in approximately a decade. In his remarks, State Superintendent Dr. Mackey shared that he had received many complaints about the lack of alignment to classroom standards and quality of math textbooks over the past few years. To address these concerns, the State Textbook Committee members completed a more rigorous rubric that rated the textbooks in areas such as alignment to the new Math Course of Study, which was adopted in 2020. Click here to view the new approved list.

The measure passed on 5-2-1 vote. Voting in favor were Governor Kay Ivey (Board President), Tracie West (District 2), Dr. Yvette Richardson (District 4), Dr. Tommie Stewart (District 5), Dr. Cynthia McCarty (District 6), and Jeffrey Newman (District 7).

Voting against were Board Vice President Jackie Ziegler (District 1) and Stephanie Bell (District 3).

 Wayne Reynolds (District 8) abstained.


>State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey provides updates on new Stimulus Funds (CARES2) and the FY 2022 Foundation Program

As A+ outlined last week, Alabama K-12 schools are set to receive more than $900 million in aid from the newly-passed federal stimulus bill. Dr. Mackey pointed to tutoring, summer learning and/or extended school years, and early literacy and math professional development for teachers as potential evidence-based strategies to fund.  He also shared that the State Department of Education has proposed the creation of a one-time $100 million dollar Education Stabilization Fund to the legislature in order to save teacher’s jobs amidst enrollment decline amid the COVID-19 crisis. As part of the proposal, school districts would be “held harmless” for enrollment decline, and it would also not penalize school districts that experienced growth during the pandemic.


>Board discusses new FAFSA proposal 

The board continued to discuss a proposal that would require completing the FAFSA form for federal student aid before graduating from high school. Proponents want to encourage more students to complete the application for financial aid for college and workforce training programs. Students would be allowed to opt-out of the requirement. Governor Ivey shared that the proposal aligns with her administration’s education and workforce development goals. States such as Louisiana who implemented a similar policy saw an 11% rise in FAFSA completion in the first year. 

Several board members expressed concerns about sharing students’ personal information. Dr. Mackey said that ALSDE would not collect or store any of the students’ FAFSA data. The board will officially vote on this measure at the February board meeting, scheduled for February 11th at 10 a.m.


>State Department of Education provides an update on Alabama’s ESSA plan 

The ESSA amendments are available for public comment. The public comment period ends January 27. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the current iteration of the federal law supporting and funding K-12 education. Each state must have a plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education to show compliance with the law in order to receive federal funding. 

During the discussion of the proposed amendments to Alabama’s ESSA plan, ALSDE officials shared that state testing to assess student progress and achievement is still planned for this Spring.  A reduction in the participation threshold of the state assessment system (ACAP) is being considered due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


>Board recognizes the following schools for becoming 2020 Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence  

Congratulations to Alabama’s 2020 Blue Ribbon Schools! 

    • Bob Jones High School (Madison City School System)
    • Cleburne County Elementary School (Cleburne County School System) 
    • Hewitt-Trussville High School (Trussville City School System) 
    • John S. Jones Elementary (Etowah County School System)
    • New Century Technology High School (Huntsville City School System)

Finally, the 2020 elections (see our recap here) resulted in two new members being elected to the board, whose terms will begin in time for the next board meeting in February. Tonya Chestnut will serve students in District 5 and Belinda McRae will serve students in District 7.

We thank Dr. Tommie Stewart (District 5) and Jeff Newman (District 7) for their excellent service to Alabama’s students during their tenure on the board and wish them well!


Contact Your Board Member:

Have feedback on any of the above items – or anything else? Contact your state school board member using the resources below:

-To contact your State Board of Education Member, click here.

-To find out which district you live and/or teach in, click here. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter your address in the “Polling Place Search” box. Once entered, it will take you to a page that shows your polling place and the districts you live in.

-To view a map of the state school board districts, click here.