Across the Board February 2021: Key Takeaways from the ALBOE Meeting

Recapping important education policy decisions for you

We’re continuing our 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 (ALSDE). 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.

Here are our key takeaways from the February 11th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama students.  

February 2021 Board Meeting

>Welcome New SBOE Members!

On Wednesday, new members, Dr. Tonya Chestnut (District 5), and Mrs. Belinda McRae (District 7) were sworn in by the Honorable Tom Parker, Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court of Alabama, at the Old House Chamber inside the Alabama State Capitol. The governor serves as the president of the SBOE. The remaining eight members are elected to four-year terms in state elections from eight districts across the state. You can see who your state board member is here.

>Board votes on Intent to Approve new FAFSA requirement

The board voted in favor of an intent to adopt a FAFSA requirement for graduating seniors. Click here to read about the conversation from last month’s meeting on the measure. The measure passed on 6-3 vote. The proposal requires a 45-day public comment period before the policy can be formally adopted. That means the final vote can come as early as the April board meeting.  If adopted, the policy would require completing the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) 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 13 other states are currently considering making this a graduation requirement. 

YES VOTES: Governor Kay Ivey (Board President), Tracie West (District 2), Dr. Yvette Richardson (District 4), Dr. Tonya Chestnut (District 5), Dr. Cynthia McCarty (District 6), and Belinda McRae (District 7).

NO VOTES: Board Vice President Jackie Ziegler (District 1), Stephanie Bell (District 3), and Dr. Wayne Reynolds (District 8).

>State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey provides updates on the Vaccination of School Staff & State Recovery Plan

Earlier this week, on February 8th, Alabama expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations to people 65 and older as well an additional subset of priority Group 1B, including teachers and support staff. Dr. Mackey shared that the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) will release new quarantine guidelines, adding that, when a teacher reaches full immunity (defined as two weeks after receiving a 2nd shot), they would no longer have to quarantine. 

Additionally, Dr. Mackey shared that districts will be required to submit Recovery Plans detailing how they plan to spend their federal ESSER II allocations to ALSDE. Noting the rapid timeline, Dr. Mackey suggested the plans could be due as early as May 1. Dr. Elisabeth Davis, Assistant State Superintendent for Student Learning, shared that the Recovery Plans will focus on three pillars (i.e. how expenditures should be prioritized): high-quality instructional materials, high-quality professional development, and unfinished learning supports. 

For more information on this current round of stimulus, check out our piece we shared in January. Dr. Mackey also noted that most districts in the state are planning to start the next school year on or before August 10th.

>Deputy State Superintendent of Education Dr. Daniel Boyd provides an update on spring state assessments

Dr. Boyd shared that ALSDE is moving forward with state testing this spring. He mentioned that he hopes for a federal waiver regarding the 95% participation requirements, a rate he said would be difficult to achieve this year in light of the pandemic. Spring 2021 testing dates can be found here.

February 2021 Work Session Discussions

>State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey shares final recommendations from the Alabama Teacher Quantity and Quality Roundtable (TQ2)

Dr. Mackey shared recommendations from Alabama’s Teacher Quantity and Quality Roundtable’s final report. The group’s task was to address teacher retention and encourage teacher career advancement. Members include K-12 education advocates and association leaders along with A+ President, Mark Dixon. The group recommends a three year pilot in 3-5 districts that would provide additional teacher pathways, support, and advancement.  The full report can be found here.

>Board discusses Adoption of the 2021 English Language Arts State Course of Study

The 2021 English Language Arts State Course of Study committee shared a presentation detailing their recommendations regarding the new English Language Arts standards. The committee prioritized vertical alignment of the standards across grade levels to scaffold support for all children and ensure that solid reading foundations are established, while rigor is increased as students transition through each grade. The language of the science of reading was woven throughout the course of study to align with the requirements of the Alabama Literacy Act.  According to the committee, the stated outcome of the course of study is for all students in Alabama to develop communication and literacy skills needed for success in college, careers, and the workforce. Board members will have an opportunity to approve the new course of study at their March board meeting. 

>State Department of Education provides updates on the Alabama Literacy Act (ALA) 

Dr. Deanise Peacock presented the ALSDE’s recommendation that the State Board of Education adopt the Foundations of Reading 190 as the content knowledge reading assessment for certifying teachers. This would replace the current Praxis Reading Elementary that teacher candidates must take to be certified. Dr. Mackey had the Literacy Task Force to evaluate both assessments and provide an analysis. Dr. Peacock shared the rubric the task force used to score possible reading assessments. Pearson’s Foundations of Reading assessment (currently used in Massachusetts for initial certification) scored highest in every section of the rubric. If adopted, Foundations of Reading 190 will be required for initial certification in the areas of elementary education (K-6), early education (P-3), and collaborative special education (K-6). If adopted, the new assessment would be required for teacher candidates who enter colleges of education beginning September 1, 2022.  Additionally, Dr. Tracye Strichik, Director of the Alabama Reading Initiative, provided updates on Summer Reading Camps (as required by the Alabama Literacy Act) that will occur in summer 2021. The state will provide full funding for schools that fall in the bottom 5% and partial funding for others. She also outlined the progress made on the overall implementation of the act and next steps for this year, including, but not limited to, continuing professional development in the science of reading, recommending core reading programs, developing student reading portfolio guidelines, and establishing minimum essential standards for reading.

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.