Across the Board June 2022: 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 June 9th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.

June Board Meeting

Attendance: All Board members were present except Stephanie Bell.

School Recognition: The Board passed a resolution commending Andalusia High School, Andalusia City School System, 2021 American College Application Campaign, School of Excellence Award, State School Board District One.

Science of Reading Spotlight Schools: The Board passed a resolution to recognize Alabama’s Science of Reading Spotlight Schools.

Educator Prep Programs: The Board passed a resolution to authorize a review of the Educator Preparation Program at the University of Mobile.

Math Praxis: The Board passed a resolution to modify certain passing scores as a precondition for initial certification and program admission. Praxis middle school math test and Praxis secondary math test will no longer be available on September 1, so they have to be replaced. The recommended cut score for secondary math is 159 and is 157 for middle school math.

Career and Technical Education Textbook Committee: The Board passed a resolution to appoint 2022-2023 State Textbook Committee for Career and Technical Education Clusters: Architecture and Construction; Information Technology; and Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics.

School Facility Construction Approval Process: The Board announced its intent to adopt a permanent change to the Alabama Administrative Code pertaining to school facilities and construction (Rule 290-2-2-.01), which will align the code with a law passed by the Alabama legislature going into effect on October 1.  This will raise the amount to $750,000 that the Department of Construction will only look at life, health, and safety codes only. Above $750,000, the department will look at the entire plan.  The Board passed an emergency rule for the same at the February Board meeting (read February Across the Board here).

Superintendent’s Report:

  • Spotlight on Reading Schools– Bonnie Short presented the list of Alabama’s Spotlight on Reading Schools, who are highlighted as the best of the best schools in our state that are models for how the science of reading is being taught. These schools have worked to increase student progress in reading achievement, trained all of their faculty in LETRS, and continued to work towards best practices in leadership alongside foundational reading practices. These schools will be featured at the MEGA conference this summer, will host targeted PD visits and instructional lab walk throughs, and will also be featured in videos that will be used to share best practices.
    • Russellville Elementary, Russellville City
    • Hackleburg Elementary, Marion County
    • Cullman City Schools
    • Fyffe High School, Dekalb County
    • Central Elementary School, Tuscaloosa City
    • University Charter School
    • Center Point Elementary, Jefferson County
    • Glencoe Elementary, Etowah County
    • Shelby County Schools
    • Sophia P. Kingston, Selma City
    • Dadeville Elementary, Tallapoosa County
    • Wetumpka Elementary, Elmore County
    • Anton School, Dale County

June Work Session

Click here to see the work session agenda.

Teacher Assessment Proposal: Chief of Staff Chuck Marcum and Deputy Superintendent Angela Martin gave the board an update on solutions for expanding the teacher pipeline, which include adjusting testing requirements for teacher certification. Marcum acknowledged that adjusting these requirements would not be a silver bullet, but just part of the solution and emphasized that it was critical to have excellent teachers in the classroom. The main proposed changes allow potential teacher candidates to  have received a Praxis score within one Standard Error of Measure (SEM) of the required passing score (i.e. a slightly lower score) and still receive a  teaching certificate. Check out the test pass rates, including passing scores & scores within -1 SEM, from September 2019 through August 2021 here.  

If students have gone through Alabama Approved State Programs, Marcum presented three proposed options.

  • Proposed Option 1– Requirements remain the same. An individual must meet all requirements to earn a Professional Educator Certificate. 
  • Proposed Option 2 – If an individual scores within one standard error of measure on the Alabama-approved Praxis subject area test and also meets an increased Teaching Field GPA of 2.75 (currently 2.5), the individual would receive a Professional Educator Certificate. If the proposed option #2 is adopted, an additional 1,194 teachers would have been able to attain certification between September 2019 and August 2021.
  • Proposed Option 3 – If an individual scores within one standard error of measure on the Alabama-approved Praxis subject area test and does NOT meet an increased Teaching Field GPA of 2.75, the individual would receive a Non-Professional Temporary Certificate.  To earn a full Professional Educator Certificate, this individual would have three years to either 1) earn the required score of the Praxis or 2) successfully complete 100 hours of ALSDE approved high-quality professional learning or micro-credentials in their certificate area. 
  • Tracie West highlighted that both options 2 & 3 would require IHEs to change the requirements for their teaching programs, which currently require teachers to pass the Praxis in order to complete their student teaching and graduate.

If students have gone through an Alternative Teacher Program, Martin presented three options for alternative certificates.

  • Proposed Option 1 – After passing the AL-approved Praxis subject area test, individuals with an Alternative Certificate can earn a Professional Educator Certificate by either 1) successfully completing the edTPA in either year one or two or 2) successfully completing edTPA or passing the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching in year three.
  • Proposed Option 2 – If an individual scores within one standard error of measure on the AL-approved Praxis subject area test and has at least 15 semester hours of coursework in the content to be taught, they can obtain an Alternative Certificate. They can also earn a Professional Educator Certificate by either 1) successfully completing the edTPA in either year one or two or 2) successfully completing edTPA or passing the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching in year three.

Several board members, including Dr. Tonya Chestnut, urged the department to explore an additional option for severe situations, like in the Black Belt where superintendents are desperate to get substitutes into classrooms. Dr. Chestnut noted that Options 2 & 3 would only add a few extra teachers in the critical areas of ELA and math. She further urged the ALSDE to explore additional ways to get individuals who have been through an Educator Prep Program but perhaps haven’t passed the Praxis. Other board members emphasized the need to have a minimum set of requirements for teaching just like we require in nursing and other professions.

Alabama Courses of Study Standards and State Textbook Adoption Cycle: Dr. Mackey shared that the department moved up the Science Textbook Adoption Cycle to 2023-2024 and Social Studies Textbook Adoption Cycle has been moved up to 2024-2025. Digital Literacy and Computer Science will be 2025-2026. Check out the updated schedule here.

School Safety: In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, the department and board members have been receiving lots of questions about how to keep students safe at school. Dr. Mackey shared that, after the Parkland incident, the state convened a working group and hired external consultant, nSide, to investigate state action steps to increase school safety. NSide advised four recommendations for ALSDE:

  • Create and distribute targeted surveys on school safety statewide.
  • Conduct an education campaign to increase school participation.
  • Take 360 degree photospheres of every classroom in the state (This is covered by the school safety grants, but many schools still need to do this). 
  • Make self-paced, online training programs available to school staff.

Last year, Alabama held over 14,000 school safety drills and 7,000 school safety training events. Mackey urged interested district leaders to reach out to the seven regional safety coordinators around the state, who are on-call to help school districts update and revamp their school safety plans.

Electronic Portfolios for Board Packets: Tracie West requested that the board move from paper to electronic portfolios for board packets in order to cut down on paper. She also shared that most Alabama local boards use electronic portfolio technology.

Barksdale Reading Institute Presentation: Under the Alabama Literacy Act, the Board requires all Educator Preparation Programs in Alabama colleges to teach 9 hours of coursework in the science of reading (SOR) for elementary teachers. Ensuring that teacher candidates receive a strong foundation in SOR prior to entering the classroom is critical, so the ALSDE contracted with the highly-respected Barksdale Reading Institute to analyze how each of the 25 EPPs is teaching SOR and make recommendations for improvements.

Dr. Kelly Butler, Chief Executive Officer of the Barksdale Institute, provided an initial report on the alignment of  Alabama’s 25 EPPs to the science of reading. They found 4 levels of alignment:

  • Aligned (23%) – Programs have content that is aligned, practices are aligned, making connections to practices (teacher candidates need the opportunity to see these practices modeled). Dr. Butler notes that Alabama has some shining stars that are doing a fantastic job.
  • Inconsistently Aligned (50%) – One or more of the aligned criteria above are not in place. These inconsistencies are explained for each course in the institutional reports. This category is broad and recognizes varying levels of SOR content; however, program leaders are advised that SOR content may be minimal, but this still requires extensive program revisions.
  • Not Aligned (16%) – Content is not aligned to the SOR, and this impacts the other components. Programs in this category require the reconstruction of a course and/or the full 9-hour sequence of courses. Dr. Butler shared that these courses needed complete re-construction.
  • Insufficient Information to determine alignment (11%) – Materials provided for review did not include sufficient information to reliably assess alignment. 

In addition, around 15% of what’s being taught in EPPs statewide is not evidence-based. Only 29% of textbooks were strongly aligned to SOR. Butler stated that, “Textbooks heavily influence content and 62% of the ones in use are not significantly aligned to the Science of Reading.”

Other Key Findings

  • There is a lack of understanding about what constitutes evidence-based instruction at IHEs.
  • Faculty need a much deeper understanding of SOR.
  • Modeling of instruction is insufficient. Faculty modeling is really important. Faculty also need to see the candidates modeling and give them feedback.
  • Connections to practice are tenuous. Mentor teachers don’t understand what is happening at EPPs. Some candidates that are receiving strong SOR preparation are then going into districts that still teach Balanced Literacy. 
  • Sequence & syllabi need improvement.

Four Big Ideas / Recommendations

  • Standardize Pre-Service Curricula: All IHEs should provide the same strong curricula in the Science of Reading: “Just like a great medical student needs to graduate knowing how to suture, have had practice during school.”
  • Require and support a professional growth model for the deep understanding of SOR by all college faculty
  • Design a seamless system for high-quality field experiences
  • Build equity across institutions by providing support to smaller programs.

Jackie Ziegler asked if the Literacy Task Force will be given the Barksdale Institute final report. Dr. Mackey shared that it’s a draft document, so it’s not a public document yet, but that it could potentially be shared at the right time.

Educator Prep Program Review: Dr. Mackey reminded the board they didn’t approve five programs last month because the board wanted to see the final report from the Barksdale Institute. He added that they could add a section to the Educator Prep Programs review process, where they would be required to share how they are improving their coursework & implementing the feedback from the Barksdale Institute. Several board members agreed and urged specific language about how and when these action steps would be complete. Dr. McCarty agreed and shared that approving educator prep programs was one of the constitutional responsibilities of the board and that it’s critical for the board to hold EPPs accountable for implementing Barksdale’s recommendations through the approval process.

The Board Discussed the following actions that will be taken at the July Board meeting:

  • The Board discussed a resolution honoring Alabama’s 2022 U.S. Presidential Scholars.
  • The Board discussed a resolution recognizing Kaitlin McPeake, Rocky Ridge Elementary School, Hoover City School System, and Kelsey Cooper, Discovery Middle School, Madison City School System for being recipients of the 2021-2022 Milken Educator Awards.
  • The Board discussed its intent to adopt several changes to the Alabama Administrative Code at the July meeting. After a public comment period, the Board will vote on the final adoption at their September meeting: 
    • Amend Rule 290-2-4-.06, Pertaining to Local Mechanic Certification – If you have fewer than 150 buses, you can count your bus shop manager as a mechanic. If you have more than 150 buses, your bus shop manager must earn the local mechanic certification from the ALSDE. 
    • Amend Rule 290-2-1-.01, Pertaining to Annual Apportionment of Foundation Program Funds – Every year, the SBOE has to adopt rules for the Foundation Program funds for the year’s budget that was passed. This year, they are also adding language to reflect the new salary matrix and adjusting language for the Foundation Program allowance for student growth.
    • Amend Rule 290-040-040-.02, Pertaining to Certain Teaching Techniques – This is pertaining to the law passed during the session prohibiting teachers from teaching K-5 students about sexual orientation or gender identity in a manner that is not age-appropriate for students in accordance with state standards. This allows the LEA to make a determination if their teacher has done something that is inappropriate. Violations are required to be reported to the ALSDE. 
  • New Rule 290-3-3-.60, Pertaining to Alternative Teacher Preparation Organizations – This rule is for candidates who are not going through traditional teacher prep programs. Currently, there is a pilot program with Teachers of Tomorrow, a program out of Texas. The AL Legislature passed HB 307, which requires the ALSDE to open alternative programs beyond this pilot.
  • New Rule 290-4-5-.05, Pertaining to Mental Health Service Coordinator– This deals with a change to the law, where parents will have to opt-in to ongoing school counseling services provided by a therapeutic mental health therapist.

The Board discussed nominees to the Alabama Public Charter School Commission.

  • Under Alabama’s charter school law, the State Board of Education must approve new appointments to Alabama Public Charter School Commission which approves new charter schools. When there is a vacancy, the Board receives two candidates proposed by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, or President Pro Tem of the Senate. Then they pick from the two choices. 
  • Members of the Board have often complained that they lack enough information about the candidates to make an informed decision.
  • Today, Tracie West asked for a full report on the Commission’s work before she votes on any more new appointments.
  • She wants to see all of the reports required of the Commission by law, including information on the academic and fiscal performance of charter schools approved by the Commission.
  • The Board opted to delay voting on the proposed nominees to the Charter Commission for another month.

Board Member Questions: 

  • Dr. Cynthia McCarty asked about the status of the full review of the A-F Report Card weights as suggested by the Public Consulting Group. Dr. Mackey shared that there is not much we can do with the report card weights now, but we can require students to earn a College and Career Readiness indicator in order to graduate. He also mentioned that the department is continuing to talk to PCG about adjustments to accountability, but they need two years of ACAP test data before we can look at changing the weights. The technical committee is meeting tomorrow to look at this year’s raw data to recommend this year’s cut scores.
  • Dr. McCarty asked when ACAP data would be released. Dr. Mackey shared that SBOE would receive their board district’s ACAP reading district today and that the rest of the ACAP data will be available in September. ACT data will also be available at the end of September.
  • Dr. McCarty also inquired about the waiver process for state textbook dollars for core reading programs that aren’t on the approved state textbook list. Dr. Mackey explained that there is no waiver process. School districts can use their own dollars to buy books off the list, but they will not be in compliance with the Alabama Literacy Act. High-quality instructional materials based in the science of reading are a critical component to students being able to read on grade level by the end of third grade. 
  • Dr. Wayne Reynolds asked other board members if they were interested in changing the Board Meeting agenda structure so that Board members have an opportunity to offer a comment, like the state superintendent, during the SBOE meeting. Board members didn’t offer any objections, so the ALSDE will go forward with writing an administrative code change to add this to the regular board meeting.

The SBOE announced that it will have its next Board Retreat on August 24, 2022.

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.