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 July 13th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.
July 2021 Board Meeting
> Board unanimously elects Dr. Yvette Richardson as Vice President
Every July, the Board has its annual meeting required by the Alabama Constitution where they elect officers. Today, the Board unanimously elected Dr. Yvette Richardson (District 4) as Vice President, who will preside when the Governor is not present at meetings. She replaces Ms. Jackie Zeigler. Dr. Wayne Reynolds was also elected President Pro Tempore. This was the only action item on this month’s agenda.
July 2021 Board Work Session Discussions
> Resolution Addressing Critical Race Theory in the Classroom
Last month, Dr. Mackey brought a draft resolution addressing the teaching of Critical Race Theory, or CRT, in Alabama schools. 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. This draft resolution, along with suggested changes from Board members, were considered at today’s work session. New this month, the board is also discussing changes to the Alabama Administrative Code to implement the resolution and includes an attempt to define CRT using Britannica Online. There is no definition or explicit mention of CRT in the original draft resolution, which you can read here.
A majority of board members appeared interested in moving forward with some form of action, but others expressed concern with moving too fast without understanding the potential for unintended consequences of the resolution, given that it is more broad than specific. Read more about the full discussion here.
During the discussion, Dr. Mackey emphasized that CRT is not currently taught in schools, and that comments from parents were mostly concerns about what could happen in the future. He also stated that the resolution would not change the current Course of Study and the intent was not to prevent teachers from tackling tough topics or debating current events. However, there is a concern that without specificity, this resolution could have a chilling effect on discussing race or other difficult topics in the classroom.
Currently, the board plans to continue discussing edits to the resolution and proposed administrative code changes with the goal of voting at the August 12th board meeting.
> Masks, Vaccines, and Quarantines
The board asked Dr. Mackey to clarify some questions about mask and vaccine policies in the next school year. Regarding masks in schools, the Governor’s state of emergency and the state health order that required masking last school year has expired. The State Health Officer will be making recommendations to local school districts based on CDC guidance, but there aren’t any statewide mask mandates expected in schools at this time. Regarding vaccines, the Department of Public Health (ADPH) is recommending the COVID-19 vaccines but has no intention of adding it to the “blue card” as a required vaccination. This would make it similar to a flu shot that is recommended versus a measles vaccine that is required for K-12 and higher education students to attend school. Finally, COVID-19 is a “notifiable disease” which means schools are required by law to report positive cases. ADPH will do contact tracing and quarantining may be required if the student is not vaccinated. This could impact school, sports, extracurriculars. Bottomline: we are still in a pandemic.
> TEAMS Program
The board also asked about the implementation of the TEAMS Act passed by the Legislature that offers new contracts with higher pay for STEM Teachers. The ALSDE released a model contract that most local school districts are using. Applications are open and you can learn more here.
> Literacy Act Update
Dr. Mackey announced that the Alabama Literacy Task Force has completed its review of Comprehensive Core Reading Programs and the approved programs have been provided to local districts so that current federal stimulus dollars could be used to purchase them. This review will also feed into the ongoing ELA Textbook Committee review process that is currently underway.
Also when the Governor vetoed SB 94, which would have delayed full implementation of the Literacy Act for two years, she asked the ALSDE to provide the board with a report on the ACAP assessment results, which Dr. Mackey said will occur at the September Work Session. Once that is complete, she also asked for input from the Alabama Committee on Grade Level Reading on any necessary action before the Legislature returns in January 2022.
The following items were reviewed by the Board and will be voted on at the August meeting:
- Resolution recognizing 2021-2022 District Teachers of the Year.
- Resolutions recognizing the Alabama Elementary Counselor of the Year (Terri Coleman, Hoover City) and Secondary Counselor of the Year (Amanda Yearwood, Cullman County)
- Resolution recognizing Alabama School Counseling Programs of Distinction
- Resolution appointing State Textbook Committee Career and Technical Education Clusters of Business Management, Finance, Marketing, and Work-based Learning
- Resolution appointing the English Language Arts Textbook Committee
- Administrative Code Changes, Foundation Program – implementing and distributing the funds. Replaced current units with student growth funds for fast-growing districts
- Charter School Commission Nominees
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.