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 November 10th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.
November 2021 Board Meeting
Click here to view the meeting agenda.
>Attendance: All members were present.
>Recognition of Principals of the Year:
- Resolution in Recognition of Mrs. Caroline Obert, Principal, Chelsea Middle School, Shelby County School System, as Alabama’s 2021 Middle School Principal of the Year, State School Board District Three
- Resolution in Recognition of Mr. Ronald Pinson, Principal, Chilton County High School, Chilton County School System, as Alabama’s 2021 High School Principal of the Year, State School Board District Three
- Resolution in Recognition of Mr. Harland Drew Glass, Assistant Principal, Wetumpka High School, Elmore County School System, as Alabama’s 2021 Assistant Principal of the Year, State School Board District Three
- Resolution in Recognition of Mrs. Aqila Malpass, Assistant Principal, Rocky Ridge Elementary School, Hoover City School System, as Alabama’s 2021 Outstanding Assistant Principal of the Year, State School Board District Three
- Resolution in Recognition of Ms. Amy Mason, Principal, Madison County Elementary School, Madison County School System, as the 2021 National Association of Elementary School Principals National Distinguished Principal from Alabama, State School Board District Eight
>”School Library Month”: The Board recognized November as “School Library Month.”
>”Inclusive Schools Week”: The Board recognized December 6-10 as “Inclusive Schools Week,” referring to students with special needs to be in inclusive classroom environments.
>Career Technical Education: The Board passed a resolution to appoint the Career and Technical Education State Course of Study Committee. Another member will be added to the committee from School Board District 5, represented by Dr. Tonya Chestnut, due to the requirement of 3 members from the district being appointed.
>ACAP Reading Subtest Cut Score: The Board set the cut score for the lowest level in reading at 452 on the ACAP Reading Subtest. This cut score is the initial step in identifying which 3rd graders might be retained for further intervention under the Alabama Literacy Act. This score was recommended by Dr. Mackey and the ALSDE and supported by other stakeholders that reviewed the data, including a joint committee of the Literacy Task Force and the Alabama Committee on Grade Level Reading. You can read the full discussion on the cut score at last month’s work session here. In her remarks, Gov. Ivey said she would recommend a one year delay of the promotion component of the Alabama Literacy Act to the Legislature, citing that we need another year of ACAP data to validate the cut scores. However, she went on to state that we need to double down on the support and funding provided through the Alabama Literacy Act, including providing intensive support for struggling readers and funding for summer and afterschool programming. Gov. Ivey also mentioned that we need the same sense of urgency and focus on improving mathematics education as we have placed on literacy. To read more about Gov. Ivey’s full statement click here. Also, check out this article from Trish Crain at AL.com for more. Any delay of the Literacy Act would still have to be passed by the Legislature.
>Administrative Code Changes: The Board unanimously approved changes to the administrative code regarding student assessment as well as a separate change regarding specialized treatment centers. The Board had previously announced its intent to adopt these changes at their September Board Meeting.
>Charter School Commission Appointments: The Board voted Ms. Julie Ann McCulley onto the Alabama Public Charter School Commission after tied votes at the past 2 Board meetings. In addition, the Board voted to affirm the full slate of nominees to the commission.
- Votes for Ms. Kate White: Mrs. McRae, Dr. Reynolds
- Votes for Ms. Julie Ann McCulley: Dr. Chestnut, Dr. McCarty, Gov. Ivey, Dr. Richardson, Mrs. West, Mrs. Ziegler
- Votes to Abstain: Mrs. Stephanie Bell
- Alabama has officially been named as one of only 6 states that meets all of the Code.org requirements of being a leader in Computer Science, out-ranking all other Southern states except Arkansas.
- Dr. Mackey announced the Iron Bowl STEM Challenge from AMSTI and SCORE at Auburn University. The winner will be announced Nov. 27
November 2021 Work Session
Click here to view the work session agenda.
> Dr. Mackey introduced Dr. Kimberly Gaiters-White, the new Dean of Education at Jacksonville State University. The University’s Educator Preparation Program will be up for review at next month’s Board meeting.
> Computer Science Update from Dawn Morrison, who manages this work for the ALSDE:
- Since passage of the Computer Science law in 2019, Alabama has become a national leader in computer science education and has made significant progress expanding access to students.
- She reported a 96% increase in Computer Science student enrollment from 2020-21 to 2021-22, from 17,775 to 35,248, including 481 students in dual enrollment computer science courses. There will be a Tableau with updated data at cs4alabama.org by Thanksgiving.
- 776 teachers were trained in summer of 2021 in computer science. PD is important because many teachers do not have a formal background or comfort level with computer science.
- 76% of middle and high schools met the computer science legislation requirements in 2021-2022, including 220 middle schools and 202 high schools.
- 82% of AL high schools are providing computer science courses, with 81% of rural schools offering CS and 88% of schools with the highest percentages of free and reduced lunch.
- Though 90% of students attend a high school offering CS, only 4.5% are enrolling. Only 38% of enrolled CS students are female, which mirrors trends in the industry. Mrs. West expressed concern about the enrollment statistics, and asked about whether career counselors are sharing data about demand for CS, which Ms. Morrison confirmed that they were.
- Alabama Governor’s App Challenge, which began in August. Teams have until January 14 to submit their apps, linked here.
>Debra Wallace, representing Alabama Supercomputer Authority, presented on cybersecurity in local school systems. Ms. Wallace and her team presented to the Board on the number of districts they serve, firewall services, and training provided to districts and their employees.
>The Alabama Workforce Council, represented by Tim McCartney and Allen Harris, presented their 10 Points for K-12 Education, which are the council’s recommendations for improving education in Alabama.They emphasized the need to improve student academic outcomes, especially in literacy and math, and shared how hard it is for industry to recruit new businesses to Alabama with our low NAEP results (49th in reading and 52nd in math). In addition to raising academic achievement, they also called for ensuring that Alabama Terminal on Linking and Analyzing Statistics (ATLAS), our state longitudinal data system, is built and governed using national best practices.
> The Board decided on their meeting and work session schedule for 2022, linked here.
- January’s Board Retreat would be on Wednesday, January 26 in order to ensure that state legislators would be able to attend.
- Board meetings would be on the second Thursday of the month, except for July which would be a Tuesday.
- The August meeting would be the last Wednesday of the month.
>The Board discussed a change in the Administrative Code, which will change policy on electronic records. The department is trying to move to using DocuSign, an electronic signature platform, but it requires change in the Administrative Code.
>The Board reviewed resolutions to recognize Blue Ribbon Schools:
- Brewton Elementary School, Brewton City School System
- Orange Beach Elementary School, Baldwin County School System
- Mt. Laurel Elementary School, Shelby County School System
- Hall Kent Elementary School, Homewood City School
- Macmillan International Academy, Montgomery County School System
>The Board discussed a Resolution recognizing December 6-10 as “Computer Science Education Week.”
>The Board discussed a resolution Declaring Importance of Local Board Autonomy Related to Certain Individual Health and Safety Decisions, which would affirm that local school districts have the right to make decisions about whether students are required to wear masks or not.
- Dr. Reynolds suggested holding off, and Dr. Chestnut asked if the Board should be proactive rather than reactive. Mrs. West agreed to be proactive with the potential for a spike after holiday travel, so it was decided to leave it on the agenda. Dr. Reynolds asked if they should include immunizations in the resolutions, but Dr. Mackey said they already planned to put out a letter saying that they do not intend to make the COVID-19 vaccine a requirement.
>The Board discussed a Resolution in Recognition of Selma City School System’s Alabama Performance Excellence Program Award.
>Nick Moore, Governor Ivey’s Education Policy Advisor, present on Dr. Eric Mackey’s evaluation from the Board. Click here to view board member’s comments on his evaluation.
>Board Member Questions:
Several board members wanted to discuss the Alabama Literacy Act implementation.
- Mrs. Ziegler brought up all of the responsibilities of the State Board of Education, specifically with taking more ownership of the implementation of the act. In addition, she brought up that we need a plan for math that is just as focused as our state’s strategy for reading. Dr. Mackey proposed a full presentation during the next work session of the implementation of the Literacy Act and all of the department’s efforts to improve math.
- Dr. Chestnut asked specifically about the plan to ensure that the schools that have the greatest need get the greatest support. Dr. Mackey shared that the Literacy Act was the first time in Alabama where “we have put the resources where the need is,” but also recognized that there was an opportunity to increase support to more schools. He proposed potentially adding a fourth tier (6-20%) to ensure these schools get more support and funding.
- Dr. McCarty added that we need to encourage all staff in schools that have struggled with reading proficiency to get trained in LETRS and that all Literacy Act supports (like afterschool tutoring and summer programs) should continue for all 4th graders who aren’t reading on grade level. She also asked if the ALSDE knew the specific intervention programs that schools were using. Dr. Mackey shared that schools have to turn in a report to the ALSDE detailing the type of intervention programs used and amount of progress students are making.
- Mrs. West asked for data on where the students & schools that are struggling with reading are located, specifically schools in the 0-5% and 6-40% proficiency ranges. Dr. Chestnut would also like to see what summer programs were used in each of these struggling schools, in order for the board to analyze which programs were effective and which weren’t.
Mrs. McRae mentioned a concern from a local superintendent about principal salaries being in competition with TEAMS Act salaries. Some of their district’s principals were making less than TEAMS teachers, who were also driving buses. The consensus of the Board was that it was due to market dynamics, and that the TEAMS Act, which was designed to make STEM teacher pay more competitive to recruit and retain them, was doing its job. Ultimately, Dr. Mackey said that principal compensation has to be dealt with locally.
Dr. Wayne Reynolds produced a report from the ALSDE on total per pupil expenditure by district for all Board members, and talked about how per pupil spending impacts student achievement. Mrs. West mentioned that some expenses, such as for capital, are included in these calculations so not all the money in the report is actually going toward student learning. If you are interested in learning more about equitable school funding, click here to read a report from the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University on a recent pilot of weighted student funding (WSF) in large school districts across the country.
Dr. Reynolds asked how directive the state is allowed to be on how districts spend ESSER money. Dr. Mackey said that the state is not allowed to tell districts how to spend their money, but that the ALSDE is allocating some of the state’s portion of ESSER to summer reading camps.
Dr. McCarty asked about the status of the ELA Textbook process. Dr. Mackey shared that the Textbook Committee will be coming to present at the December work session and the vote to approve the textbooks will be in the January SBOE meeting. Dr. Mackey mentioned that the Textbook Law and the Alabama Literacy Act are not in agreement, so we will have to decide which to follow.
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.