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

Recapping important education policy decisions for you

We’re continuing our monthly 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. The Board takes official action during their monthly Meeting and then follows up with a Work Session to get updates and discuss future action that will be voted on at the next board meeting. You can watch them live and see old meetings here

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

March 2021 Board Meeting

>Board adopts the English Language Arts (ELA) Course of Study

The board voted in favor of adopting the 2021 English Language Arts Course of Study in a 6-3 vote. Click here to read about the conversation from last month’s work session on the course of study. Local districts are able to develop their own curriculum and pacing guides. Click here to see the draft of the new course of study. The final version will be released on the ALSDE website next week.

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).

>Board adopts the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Course of Study 

The Board voted unanimously to approve courses of study in the following career clusters – Business Management & Administration, Finance, Manufacturing, Marketing, and Work-Based Learning.

>Board unanimously approves resolutions related to the Alabama Literacy Act   

  • Foundations of Reading 190 Assessment: The Board announced its intent to shift from the Praxis Reading Elementary assessment to the Foundations of Reading 190 assessment. The Foundations of Reading assessment covers the essential components of reading development and best practices in reading instruction and assessment as identified by reading research. 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) for teacher candidates who enter colleges of education or alternative programs  on or after September 1, 2022. 
  • Summer Reading Camp Formative Assessments: The Board unanimously approved the list of formative assessments that can be used for Summer Reading Camps as required by the Alabama Literacy Act. In accordance with the law, school districts will begin offering summer reading camps this summer. This is the same list of 6 assessments, 3 of which were recommended by the Alabama Literacy Task Force, that were approved by the ALSDE in 2020 for use during the school year.

Student Spotlight

The board also recognized students for their extraordinary contributions to the Superintendent’s Visual Arts Exhibit. Summer Burress of Enterprise High School was this year’s 2021 Secondary Division Best in Show award winner. Upon recognition, Summer gave a few remarks at the meeting. “My artwork is part of my AP portfolio which is exploring the pressures to be perfect. In this piece, specifically, I wanted to showcase the pressure of having a perfect outward appearance and how this pressure can be constricting and overwhelming. Especially during this time, art has really helped a lot of students put their emotions into their artwork.”

Summer Burress with her award-winning
artwork depicting the pressure to be perfect.

March 2021 Board Work Session Discussions

>State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey shares updates on Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds

 Dr. Mackey shared how yesterday’s passage of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and subsequent ESSER funds will impact Alabama’s students.  The amount of ESSER 3 funds in this package is almost double what the state received in rounds 1 and 2 of ESSER funding. 

Considering all three rounds of ESSER funding, Alabama school districts can expect to receive a grand total of $2 billion in federal stimulus dollars that must be spent by September 2024. The latest round of funding will be distributed according to the Title I distribution formula and, unlike Rounds 1 and 2, districts that don’t receive Title I dollars will not be eligible to receive these funds. Dr. Mackey stated that districts could expect to receive anywhere between $870 per pupil in higher-income participating districts to $9,500 per pupil in the most impoverished participating districts. 

ESSER I funds must be spent by September 2022, ESSER II funds by September 2023, and ESSER III funds by September 2024.

>Board discusses State Textbook Committee process for approved Courses of Study and potential updates to the process from Senate Bill 217 in the Legislature

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey shared that information about the textbook processes for the approved ELA and Career and Technical Education courses of study will be discussed during the April board work session. Dr. Cynthia McCarty (District 6) asked Dr. Mackey for an update on Senate Bill 217, recently introduced in the Alabama Senate by Senator Tim Melson (Senate District 1). If passed, textbook publishers would be required to provide correlation to the appropriate Alabama course of study as a part of expanded rubrics used to score textbooks as well as provide more details to local districts. The new textbook committee rubrics could also be made available to public for review upon the board’s approval. The bill has passed the Senate Education Policy committee and now moves to the full Senate for approval. 

>Dr. Elisabeth Davis discusses ALSDE commitment to LETRS training

Dr. Elisabeth Davis, Assistant State Superintendent of Student Learning, answered board member questions around the opportunity and availability of LETRS training for Alabama educators. Dr. Davis stated that ALSDE would like to provide the training to any Alabama educator that would like more training in the science of reading. Additionally, Dr. Mackey shared that ESSER funds can be used to fund these trainings, covering the cost for any educator wanting to be trained.

>State Superintendent of Education Dr. Eric Mackey provides updates on spring state assessments

Dr. Mackey shared that the state will continue to move forward with in-person state assessments this spring. Spring 2021 testing dates can be found here. Dr. Mackey shared that ALSDE received waiver instructions from the Biden administration this week. Accountability waivers (such as the A-F school grades and the failing schools list as required by the Alabama Accountability Act) as well as a reduction in participation rate (typically 95%) will be considered. This week, the Legislature passed HJR72 that encourages the ALSDE to administer spring state assessments and take any steps necessary to waive accountability requirements for one year.

Dr. Mackey noted that the state needs a minimum of 70% participation to create a valid baseline for the new Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program (ACAP) in grades 2-8. He noted that local superintendents and principals are strongly encouraging every student to participate in the assessments. Dr. Angela Martin, Assistant State Superintendent of Evaluation, Accountability, and Support, noted that there would be a 30-day public comment period for whatever waivers ALSDE proposes.   

>Education Trust Fund (ETF) and new pay proposal for math and science teachers to be discussed in Alabama Senate next week

State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey shared that he expects the Alabama Senate’s Finance and Taxation Education committee will meet Tuesday to consider the state’s FY’ 2022 education budget. He stated that he expects the education budget to be on the floor of the senate by Thursday, March 18th. Senator Arthur Orr, Chairman of the Finance and Taxation Education committee, echoed this timeline during Wednesday’s Finance and Taxation Education committee meeting. Dr. Mackey went on to share that Senators Chesteen and Orr filed SB327 today, which would raise pay for most certificated math and science teachers in grades 6-12. The goal of the sponsors is to make Alabama’s math and science teachers some of the highest paid in the country. You can see the bill here.

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.