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 September 9th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.
September 2021 Board Meeting
- Mrs. Stephanie Bell was not in attendance; Mrs. Belinda McRae attended virtually.
- The Board decided to have all votes for the day be roll call votes.
- The Board unanimously passed a resolution honoring Ms. Michelle Wellman as the Barbara Fannin Memorial Employee of the Quarter.
- The Board unanimously approved the Educator Preparation Program at Faulkner University.
- The new Alabama Teacher Observation Program was passed unanimously by the Board. It will go into effect in January of 2022.
- The Board unanimously passed a resolution proclaiming September as Workforce Development Month. Gov. Kay Ivey also presented her own resolution on Workforce Development Month.
- The resolution in recognition of Cash for College Awards for Alabama Schools was passed unanimously.
- Board unanimously approves the state department’s operating budget for Fiscal Year 2022, which starts in October.
- Board unanimously passed two changes to the administrative code
- Changes to the Instructional Services section to reflect current practice, such as removing language referring to the Alabama Graduation Exam, which is no longer in use.
- Updates to the requirements on Specialized Treatment Centers
- Lt. Gov. WIll Ainsworth made two nominations to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission, Ms. Kate White, STEM Teacher at Guntersville High School, and Ms. Julie Ann McCulley, Principal of Cherokee Elementary, Guntersville City Schools. The Board did not appoint anyone to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission and voted unanimously to carry over to the next Board meeting since the Board tied 4-4.
- Votes for Ms. McCulley: Dr. Chestnut, Dr. McCarty, Dr. Richardson, Mrs. Ziegler
- Votes for Ms. White: Gov. Ivey, Mrs. McRae, Dr. Reynolds, Mrs. West
Dr. Eric Mackey expressed gratitude to board members for the quick vote of unanimous support for the Alabama Teacher Observation Program (ATOP), which is the new teacher observation tool that has been developed as a requirement for AL’s ESSA plan. School leaders across the state will undergo training this fall on how to utilize the tool and implementation will launch in January 2022. To learn more about Alabama’s policies related to teacher evaluation, check out this link here.
Dr. Mackey shared the winning videos from Alabama Association of School Boards’ 2021 “Road to Success” student video contest.
September 2021 Work Session
> SBOE members received their first look at state-level 2020-2021 ACAP assessment data from ALSDE officials.
This was the first student assessment data made available since the 2019 school year, since Alabama received a federal testing waiver during the 2019-2020 school year. This is also the first year that students have taken the new Alabama Comprehensive State Assessment (ACAP). District leaders are in the process of confirming their ACAP data, which is due to the state on September 21. At that point, ALSDE will begin its own data verification process, with the goal of 2020-2021 ACAP data being released to the public on September 27th.
When compared to results from 2019, English Language Arts (ELA) scores fell for some grades and improved for others. Math scores did not fare as well, dropping more than twenty percentage points across grade levels. It’s important to note that since these are different assessments (Scantron was used in 2018-19), this is not comparing apples to apples. Click here to see the initial statewide data and here to read an analysis of the initial data from Trish Powell Crain for al.com’s Education Lab.
The reading score that will be one of the measures used in the future to determine if 3rd grade students are reading on grade level as part of the Alabama Literacy Act is still being calculated by DRC, the state’s testing vendor. This data and its potential impact on the implementation of the Literacy Act will be discussed at the October SBOE work session.
> Dr. Eric Mackey shared that ACAP data will be shared directly to district superintendents on August 16 for review.
ACAP data will be available publicly in September and will be reviewed at the State Board of Education Work Session on September 9.
> Dr. Eric Mackey discussed updates to the FY 2023 Education Trust Fund budget request.
The Board discussed their budget request for the first time during August’s Board retreat, which you can read about here. Below are some of the main priorities in the FY 2023 budget request. The full budget request spreadsheet is linked here.
- AMSTI: The budget request includes an additional $3 million for Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) to increase the number of regional math specialists supporting districts. Math specialists will be especially important in light of the noticeable drop in students earning proficient scores on ACAP tests in spring 2021. The request also includes $8.5 million to provide math coaches in school buildings for LS1 schools, or the 53 lowest scoring schools.
- Distance Learning: The budget request includes a $3.5 million increase for ACCESS distance learning, which will allow the program to expand courses down to 6th grade, which currently only provides online courses for grades 9-12.
- ARI: The budget request includes a $5 million increase for Alabama Reading Initiative to increase the salary of local reading coaches from approximately $52,000 annually to $60,000 a year.
- English Language Learners: The budget request includes a new statewide ELL coordinator and a $2 million increase to pay for the statewide and regional ELL framework, including specialists.
- Assessments: The budget request includes $11.5 million for student assessments, which includes updating the ACAP test to reflect the most recently passed Math and ELA courses of study, providing the ACT with Writing, ACT WorkKeys, ACT Online Prep, and other ACT products to high school students. This would provide the ACT to all students multiple times (currently all AL students take the ACT once in 11th grade).
- Teacher Units: The Board will ask for $250 million to pay for additional teacher 3,200 units (with a particular focus on grades 4-8); however, Dr. Mackey cited the teacher shortage crisis as a challenge to filling these new positions.
- TEAMS: The budget request includes a $75 million increase to fund the increased salary schedule for STEM teachers on TEAMS contracts as the program continues to grow.
- School Nurses: The budget request includes a $60 million increase to fund one school nurse in every school.
> Board Member Questions:
COVID-19 Safety: There were several questions concerning masks and COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Mackey reiterated that it would not be possible for him or the Board to require vaccines or masks. It was the State Health Officer’s order that required masks last year. Dr. Wayne Reynolds mentioned a pre-filed bill for the 2022 Legislative Session that would ban mask mandates, and after some discussion from the Board, Dr. Mackey proposed working on a resolution that would leave mask mandate decisions up to local school boards.
> The Board discussed resolutions recognizing teachers for the following achievements:
- Elizabeth Baranov, Hutchens Elementary School, Mobile County School System, as a 2020 Mathematics Presidential Award Finalist, District One
- Stephanie Conner, Creek View Elementary School, Alabaster City School System, as a 2020 Mathematics Presidential Award Finalist, District Three
- Jessica Ellzey, Dawes Intermediate School, Mobile County School System, as a 2020 Science Presidential Award Finalist, District One
- Geri Evans, Bluff Park Elementary School, Hoover City School System, as a 2020 Science Presidential Award Finalist, District Three
- Jennifer Kennedy, Spark Academy at Cowart Elementary School, Athens City School System, as a 2020 Science Presidential Award Finalist, District Eight
- Delaura Downs, Jefferson County International Baccalaureate Middle School, Jefferson County School System, as a 2021 Mathematics Presidential Award
- Finalist, District Seven
- Tracey Jones, Parkside School, Cullman County School System, as a 2021 Mathematics Presidential Award Finalist, District Six
- Justin Swasey, Headland Middle School, Henry County School System, as a 2021 Mathematics Presidential Award Finalist, District Two
- Krista Marcum, Gulf Shores High School, Gulf Shores City School System, as a 2021 Science Presidential Award Finalist, District One
- Amber Mashon, Spain Park High School, Hoover City School System, as a 2021 Science Presidential Award Finalist, District Three
- Janet Ort, Hoover High School, Hoover City School System, as a 2021 Science Presidential Award Finalist, District Three
> The Board discussed a review of the University of Alabama Educator Preparation Program:
Dr. Kathy Wetzel from University of Alabama came to answer questions about the two new programs, Class A Elementary STEM Program and Class AA Math Specialist Program.
>The Board discussed 5 resolutions acknowledging October as:
- Manufacturing Month,
- Dyslexia Awareness Month
- Statewide Parent Engagement Month
- October 11-15 as School Lunch Week
- October 18-22 as Alabama School Bus Safety Week.
>Outgoing Speaker Mac McCutcheon made two sets of nominations to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission to be voted on at the October Board meeting
- Ms. Marla Green and Ms. Jenny Ives of Montgomery, AL
- Ms. LaKeisha Wheeler of Huntsville, AL and Jessica Hammonds of Auburn, AL
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.