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 June 10th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.
June 2021 Board Meeting
>Board unanimously approves resolution to release Montgomery County Board of Education from Educational Intervention on December 21, 2021–
Ms. Stephanie Bell, who represents part of Montgomery, said there were mixed opinions in the community on whether to release Montgomery from intervention. Because there is the December 1st deadline, she would vote in favor. Dr. Tonya Chestnut, who also represents Montgomery, said the system had exceeded the requirements and she supports what the schools are doing.
Montgomery has been under state intervention since 2017 due to academic and financial deficiencies. The Board received an update on their progress at the May Work Session (read our May Across the Board here).
>Board approves educator preparation programs –
Board members unanimously approved educator preparation programs at Talladega University and Huntingdon College, and extended approval of educator preparation programs at Auburn University at Montgomery, Jacksonville State University, Troy University, and the University of North Alabama.
>Board votes unanimously to announce intent to repeal and adopt new Alabama Administrative Code Chapter 290-3-3, pertaining to Educator Preparation –
The board announced its intent to adopt changes to the code pertaining to Colleges of Education, updating it to reflect changes in national standards and reorganizing and reconstituting the entire code section into a more logical format. They will now receive public review and be fully adopted by the board after a few months.
>Board unanimously adopts Amended Alabama Administrative Code Chapter 290-3-1, Pertaining to Public School Governance –
This update modernizes and cleans up the school governance code section. For example, the changes address issues like social security numbers no longer being collected for school enrollment.
>Superintendent’s Report: Dr. Daniel Boyd and Dr. Jeffery Langham are retiring this year –
Dr. Mackey stated that this would be the last board meeting for Dr. Daniel Boyd, current Deputy State Superintendent, who announced his retirement in April. Dr. Jeffery Langham, Assistant State Superintendent and Chief of Staff for the ALSDE, has also announced his retirement at the end of July.
A+ is grateful for the partnership we have had with Drs. Boyd and Langham, and we wish them all the best in their well-earned retirement.
June 2021 Board Work Session Discussions
Before starting discussion on the agenda items, Dr. Mackey mentioned two points of business for the Board to consider.
- Waiving the Education Report Card: Due to the pandemic, the Alabama Legislature (through HJR 72) asked the ALSDE to waive the state’s education report card this year. The state had to request a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education, which was officially granted today. Dr. Mackey says certain data, including absenteeism, will still be reported. This means that schools and districts will not receive a letter grade for the 2020-21 school year.
- Resolutions Addressing Critical Race Theory in Schools: Dr. Mackey provided two resolutions addressing Critical Race Theory (CRT), which he worked on with Governor Ivey, to the Board for consideration. The resolution amounts to a statement of beliefs of the board regarding this issue. Critical Race Theory is an academic concept based on the assumption that racism is embedded in our systems and policies, and not just a product of personal prejudice. For more information on what Critical Race Theory is, read this article from Education Week.
Board members and Dr. Mackey stated that they received a lot of contact from parents and constituents concerned about the teaching of Critical Race Theory in the classroom, and wanted to address the issue.
The first resolution was a reproduction of a resolution passed in Georgia, and the second was a shorter version he worked on with the Governor’s office. Dr. Mackey suggested that the Board come back in July to discuss a finished resolution, and the Board agreed to not rush the process.
Dr. Mackey said Alabama’s Social Studies Course of Study does not include CRT. The full Social Studies course of study is currently undergoing its regular review process and will be brought to the board for approval when completed. He was also clear that no formula-driven federal funds (Title I, etc.) are tied to the teaching of CRT. There is a new grant program from the U.S. Department of Education to incentivize states to update their social studies standards.
Board member Stephanie Bell suggested that an emergency resolution be brought in July to ensure that a statement was made prior to the upcoming school year. Dr. Mackey also provided the option of making permanent changes to the administrative code in addition to the proposed resolution.
On the Official Agenda today:
> Teacher Observation Tool –
Dr. Boyd and Dr. Langham provided an overview of the new teacher observation tool that will assist administrators in providing teacher’s feedback on their practice. The tool has been field tested and will be implemented across the state beginning in January 2022.
This observation tool will be utilized by principals and assistant principals trained to use the new system. Each observation is required to be at least 20 minutes, and items will be scored on a four point scale. Results from evaluations will be used to improve practice but will not be used for personnel or employee evaluations.
This new tool stems from a federal ESSA requirement that states and districts report disparities resulting from low income students and minority students being taught by ineffective, inexperienced, or out-of-field teachers at higher rates than other students. Aggregated results from the tool will be analyzed to identify professional development development needs at the state and local levels.
> Alabama Literacy Act –
Dr. Elisabeth Davis (Assistant State Superintendent) and Dr. Tracye Strichik (Alabama Reading Initiative Director) presented updates on the Literacy Act, which is scheduled to take full effect this upcoming school year.
The ALSDE has used one-time federal funds to open a fifth cohort of LETRS science of reading training, which will fund the entire waitlist of teachers.
The Literacy Task Force is currently finalizing their review of Core Reading Programs, finished Minimum Essential Standards for reading, and are working on guidance for the Student Reading Portfolio to provide to districts prior to the next school year. Dr. Strichik commended the Literacy Task Force for their hard, comprehensive work and for spending so much time at a very busy part of the year.
Summer training will be offered on the new English Language Arts (ELA) course of study, on English Language Learner strategies, Dyslexia awareness, introduction to the science of reading (through ARI), and training for pre-service teachers on the Literacy Act.
Dr. Wayne Reynolds mentioned Governor Ivey’s veto of SB 94 that would have delayed the retention component of the Alabama Literacy Act by two years. He stated that districts should follow the law and not expect any extension, even if one comes later. Dr. Davis emphasized that we don’t want to lose momentum on implementation. Ms. Bell asked about the number of 3rd graders that might be held back under the law. Davis and Strichik said they don’t have that data yet, but emphasized the new formative assessments that are now in place to identify struggling students in earlier grades so they can be better supported now.
Dr. Mackey reminded the board that the first results of the ACAP summative assessment will be brought to the Board in September.
> PowerSchool –
Ms. Angela Martin, soon to be Deputy Superintendent, gave an update on Powerschool, the new statewide Student Information System (SIS) that will go live in August 2021. Data migration is currently underway and professional development will be offered over the summer. Office hours are also available for districts as they implement the new system. A statewide SIS with clean data is critical to support academic improvement for students. Analytics built into Powerschool will provide data on student progress and where additional support is needed.
>ESSER II and ESSER III –
Ms. Shanthia Washington provided the board with updates on federal ESSER II ($900 million) and ESSER III ($2 billion) funding that has come to Alabama to help with pandemic recovery. The deadline for districts to submit their plans for ESSER II funding has passed, and all but 7 have been received. The Department is moving on to planning the use of American Rescue Plan (ARP) ESSER III funds, 90% of which goes directly to school districts. The ALSDE is beginning to develop its plan to use their portion of the funds, as well. You can read more about the broad array of ideas being discussed here. ARP requires that specific amounts be spent on evidence-based strategies for learning loss (5%), summer enrichment (1%), and afterschool programs (1%). For summer and afterschool, the ALSDE is encouraging partnerships with community organizations to enhance the effectiveness of these programs.
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.