Across the Board December 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 December 9th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.  

December 2021 Board Meeting

Click here to view the meeting agenda. 

>Attendance: All members were present. Board President Pro Tem Dr. Yvette Richardson made a note that the Board would no longer add members names’ to the roll call or vote list after the fact if they were not present. Previously, Dr. Mackey had done this for Board members who arrived late to meetings.

>Congratulations to Alabama’s 2021-2022 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 System
  • MacMillan International Academy, Montgomery County School System

>Alabama Performance Excellence Program: Congratulations to Selma City Schools, recipient of the Alabama Performance Excellence Program Award.

>Computer Science Education Week: Congratulations to Selma City Schools, recipient of the Alabama Performance Excellence Program Award.

>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.

>The Board unanimously passed a resolution declaring the importance of local school board autonomy related to COVID health and safety decisions, specifically whether students are required to wear masks or not. Read November’s Across the Board to find out more on the discussion during last month’s work session surrounding this matter.

>The Board unanimously passed a resolution to authorize the review of educator prep programs at Jacksonville State University.

>Administrative Code Change: The Board unanimously passed a resolution announcing the intent to adopt an administrative code change allowing the department to use electronic signature software.

>Next Year’s Meeting Schedule: The Board unanimously approved the schedule for next year’s Board meetings and work sessions.

The Board also approved the employment of Ms. Stacy Royster as the Program Coordinator of Statewide Student Information System Implementation, with a salary of $130,984.80 beginning January 2022. Mrs. Bell asked Dr. Mackey to share more about Ms. Royster’s role as the “Powerschool Czar”. Dr. Mackey explained that Ms. Royster would oversee Powerschool training to ensure consistency & quality across the state, especially in light of the fact that the contract with Powerschool will end this month. The Board approved Ms. Royster’s employment unanimously with the exception of Mrs. Stephanie Bell, who abstained.

>Superintendent’s Report:

  • Dr. Mackey recognized all of the school leaders of the Blue Ribbon Schools that were present. 
  • December 6-10 is Inclusive Schools Week in Alabama. Dr. Mackey invited DaLynn Chambers from ALSDE Special Education Services to share a video presentation with the Board. 
  • Two Alabama educators took home Harbor Freight’s Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence and $50,000 grant. Only six prizes were awarded nationally. 
    • Jess Bowlin, Construction Technology Teacher at Auburn High School for the first tiny house built in an Alabama public school
    • Chickasaw City Schools for the Lifechangers Program, which built prosthetic legs and a computer lab for students in developing countries.

December 2021 Work Session

Click here to see the agenda.

>Dr. Mackey invited the students from Chickasaw City Schools and Ms. Jess Bowlin from Auburn High School to the work session to speak with the Board and answer questions. 

> Dr. Sandy Ledwell gave an update from AMSTI on Addressing Math Proficiency.

During last month’s work session, SBOE members discussed their concerns about math achievement in Alabama, after only 22% of students showed proficiency in math on the 2021 ACAP assessment. To address these concerns, Dr. Mackey asked Dr. Ledwell to present to the board on how AMSTI is supporting schools to improve math achievement. Dr. Ledwell shared about three core initiatives: AMSTI Coaching Academy & Follow-Up Support, Proficiency Scales Training, and the Menu of Services for Professional Learning (including OGAP, NUMBERS, & other AMSTI PD offerings). Through the Coaching Academy, AMSTI is training teachers-in-residence, math coaches, and administrators in best practices of coaching, leadership, content, and pedagogy. There are 145 elementary & 32 secondary building-based math coaches, most of which are funded through ESSER funds, and 31 Teachers in Residence that have completed the Coaching Academy and are receiving ongoing monthly support. Teachers in-residence are teachers that remain in the classroom while receiving additional training from AMSTI on math instructional & content leadership. Dr. Ledwell’s presentation sparked a powerful discussion among SBOE members about their concerns and questions about the state’s strategy for addressing math achievement. Among questions and concerns surfaced were: 

    • Mrs. McRae expressed concern over continued low scores in math and that, due to the windfall of federal COVID funding, lack of money will not be an acceptable excuse for the public. “The public is going to hold us accountable. I’m hopeful that these (AMSTI) supports we have in place will work together to help us rise. I don’t like to be at the bottom, no one does.”
    • Dr. Chestnut asked if AMSTI supports are available to everyone or just those who commit to be a part of the program. Dr. Ledwell explained that the AMSTI4All program allows anyone to participate in certain programs, with the exception of the Coaching Academy, which is only available to the LEAs with teachers-in-residence and building-based math coaches that have signed an agreement with AMSTI to ensure the time & capacity of math coaches are protected. Dr. Chestnut followed up by asking if there was a way to override these agreements if the school really needed the support, which sparked a discussion about local control and the support that CSI (Comprehensive Support and Improvement) Schools receive. 
    • Dr. McCarty asked if the weakest content areas for students across the state in math were known and if AMSTI was aligning professional development to address them. Dr. Ledwell said that AMSTI is currently analyzing school-level data and to determine school-level and grade-level strengths and weaknesses. 
    • Mrs. Bell encouraged the Board to take more of a leadership role in supporting AMSTI, especially in the state legislature.

>Dr. Carolyn Jones, Alabama State Textbook Administrator, Monique Lawrence, Career & Technical Education Chairperson, and Kevin Balius, English Language Arts Chairperson, presented an overview of the Alabama State Textbook Adoption Process.

You can find the powerpoint with this overview linked here.  Ensuring school districts are selecting and implementing high-quality instructional materials in all classrooms is a cost-effective way to increase student achievement. To learn more about high-quality instructional materials & how schools can use them to address learning loss, read our latest blog post here. SBOE members have previously shown concern about Alabama’s textbook review process, including the rigor of the rubrics utilized, so this is the first look at the updates made by the ALSDE.  Here are a few important details on the ELA & CTE Textbook Committee presentations:

Both textbook committees were led by and primarily comprised of Alabama educators.   

Nine companies submitted bids for CTE textbooks and 12 companies submitted bids for ELA textbooks.  

  • Both textbook committees used updated rubrics and sources of evidence, like instructional material reviews completed by EdReports and the Louisiana Department of Education, linked here, to evaluate the rigor and quality of textbooks and instructional materials submitted by publishers.

Committee members found that a publisher had submitted a bid using the old ELA standards and even provided incorrect evidence about a non-negotiable. All details are confidential. 

    • April 15 is the deadline for when local districts need to submit their textbook & instructional materials selection to the ALSDE.
    • Because no one submitted any questions or feedback during the first public input period, a second public input period will begin December 10, 2021 and be open until January 13, 2022 when the Board is expected to vote on the recommended textbooks at their January meeting.

>Mr. Chuck Marcum, ALSDE Chief of Staff, gave an update from the Teacher Preparation and Certification Work Group. 

Mr. Marcum, who led the Teacher Shortage Task Force a few years ago, reported that 38% of teachers are leaving the profession in Alabama and teacher preparation programs have seen a 62% drop in enrollment. He mentioned that everything is on the table, some of the group’s recommendations will require SBOE & Legislative approval and they are looking into alternative certification routes, incentives, testing requirements, & residencies. Their next meeting will be on Feb 16th, as the group is trying to come up with actionable plans to help schools by the fall.

>The Board discussed a resolution to extend the approval of the educator preparation program at Jacksonville State University. 

>Dr. Cathy Jones led a presentation to the Board on the new Career and Technical Education Course of Study for Architecture and Construction, Information Technology, and Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics programs.

>The Board discussed nominations for two open positions in the Board of Trustees for the Alabama School of Fine Arts.

Nominations are made by the President of the Board of Trustees for the school. 

    • Nominees for Open Position I, in order of preference: 
      • Nelvin Short
      • Lori Lein
      • Lisa Paden Gaines
    • Nominees for Open Position II, in order of preference: 
      • Lori Lein
      • Nelvin Short
      • Lisa Paden Gaines

>The Board considered a resolution to recognize January as “Gifted Education Month.”

>The Board discussed a resolution to approve the textbooks recommended by the State Textbook Committee for the Adoption of Textbooks for the following Career and Technical Education Clusters: Business Management and Administration, Finance, Marketing, Manufacturing, and Work-Based Learning.

>The Board discussed a Resolution in Recognition of Selma City School System’s Alabama Performance Excellence Program Award.

>The Board considered a resolution to approve the textbooks recommended by the State Textbook Committee of the Adoption of Textbooks for English Language Arts. 

The Board considered a resolution to recognize February 2022 as Alabama Career and Technical Education Month. 

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.