Across the Board 2022: Key Takeaways from the August ALBOE Retreat

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 twice yearly for a retreat, a full day work session during which they go deeper on topics the board wishes to learn more about. These retreats are in addition to their regular monthly meetings and work sessions. Retreats are not usually live streamed, but you can watch old meetings here.

Here are our key takeaways from the August 2022 State Board of Education retreat – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.

August 2022 Board Retreat

ALSDE Student Achievement SupportsBoard members requested an update on how the ALSDE is serving struggling schools in Alabama, including metrics used to track the progress and effectiveness of these interventions.

Angela Martin and Dr. Elizabeth Davis led a presentation (deck linked here) on the services and supports that are being offered to schools struggling with student achievement. Dr. Melissa Shields (Director of the Office of School Improvement), Bonnie Short (Director of the Alabama Reading Initiative), Dr. Karen Anderson (the newly-hired Director of the new Office of Mathematics Improvement), Dr. Sandy Ledwell (Director of the AMSTI) were all there to share about the work of their teams. The main message was that these offices are striving to work together to coordinate services they are providing to schools, which is described in the statewide plan to improve student performance in math and reading. To read this plan, click here. If you are interested in a brief overview of these accountability systems, check out PCG’s overview on pages 19-23, linked here.

In Alabama, there are multiple ways that schools are identified if they are struggling, including:

  • Comprehensive Support and Improvement Schools (CSI)
  • Additional Targeted Support and Improvement Schools (ATSI)
  • Alabama Accountability Act, through the Failing Schools List 
  • Alabama Education Report Card, with A-F grades
  • Literacy Act, through the Full Support and Limited Support Schools list
  • Numeracy Act, through the Full Support and Limited Support Schools list

There was a lengthy and emotional discussion where many board members voiced urgent concerns about what should be done for schools that have been persistently struggling and failing students. Several board members also voiced strong recommendations to the ALSDE to move up the public release ACAP scores closer to the end of this school yearl, so parents and the community have an understanding of how their children and schools are performing. For the past two years, the ALSDE has sent ACAP scores to school leaders in June and released ACAP scores to the public in September, citing that school systems need several months to verify test scores. Multiple board members directly challenged this practice today.

Human Resources and State Employment Overview: Board members have expressed concerns about the ALSDE hiring process, specifically about how long it takes to hire an ALSDE employee and the number of employees that are hired for certain or teams within the state department. They invited Terrie Morgan from the ALSDE Human Resources team, as well as representatives from the State Personnel Department to have a discussion about these challenges and potential solutions.

Dr. McCarty brought up the number of employees in the Office of School Improvement (eight full-time employees) and how there is a critical need for more capacity in this office. She had been told that the hiring process was too long and arduous, which has prevented the department from hiring more OSI staff. There was a lengthy discussion that followed that raised great questions, including how ALSDE HR and State Personnel can work more closely together to overcome barriers to get the right people in the right roles as quickly as possible, given the urgency of this work. No formal recommendations were made.

Throughout the entire discussion, there was no mention of the PCG key recommendation to significantly reorganize the ALSDE internally. PCG is the consulting group that was hired by the legislature to audit the ALSDE and develop recommendations for increasing the effectiveness of the department. PCG’s final report includes five key recommendations as well as the results of the extensive research and discovery process. To read the final report, click here. To read more about the work of PCG in Alabama, click here

Legislative Luncheon: Board members have expressed a desire to work more closely with the legislature and have made a priority to host key legislators for lunch at their bi-annual retreats.  Today, Rep. Terri Collins, Rep. Alan Baker, Rep. Tracy Estes, Rep. Jamie Kiel, Sen. Bobby Singleton, Sen. Kirk Hatcher, and Sen. Vivan Figures were present for a conversation about the upcoming legislative session and potential issues that may arise. Some topics that were mentioned that other states have recently considered were: tenure reform in Florida and funding reform in Tennessee.

Jessica Sanders asked what legislators thought about the first-grade readiness bill, linked here from Rep. Pebblin Warren. There was a rich discussion amongst SBOE members and legislators about the need for ensuring that students are ready for school, but also balancing this with support and communications with families, so there is an understanding of the skills needed for students to be ready.

Charter Schools: The State Board of Education requested an overview of the Alabama Public Charter School Commission and its processes. Each Commissioner serves a two-year term and is chosen by the State Board of Education from a list of 2 recommendations by different appointing authorities, which include the Governor and the Speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives. The Commission is independent, but ALSDE provides administrative support. Some State Board Members have expressed frustration with this setup because some believe they have oversight and responsibility for the Commission when they don’t directly appoint its members. There have been proposals over the last several years to change this appointment process, but none of the proposals have passed the Legislature. At the meeting today, the State Board wanted to learn more about the Commission and its processes, which they received from Logan Searcy from the ALSDE who supports the Charter School Commission. To learn more about high-quality charter schools, check out our policy briefs on the A+ Policy Portal, linked here.

Alabama Charter Schools Authorized by the Alabama Charter School Commission:

  • Acceleration Day and Evening Academy (9-12) and Acceleration Preparatory School (6-8) Mobile
  • University Charter School (K-12th) in Livingston
  • Lead Academy (K-5th) in Birmingham
  • I3 Academy (K-7th) in Birmingham
  • Breakthrough Charter School (K-9th) in Marion
  • Magic City Acceptance Academy (6th-12th) in Birmingham
  • Empower Community School (K-2nd/6-7th) in Bessemer
  • Alabama Aerospace and Aviation High School (9-10th) in Bessemer
  • Approved to open in 2023: Freedom Prep (K-8th) in Birmingham, Covenant Academy (K-9th) in Mobile

Three conversions are the only ones that have been approved by local authorizers.

College of Education Review Process: As readers have seen in many of our monthly updates, the State Board of Education is required to review and approve programs within the 26 Colleges of Education within the state that prepare new teachers. However, Colleges of Education also maintain additional accreditation, such as Continuous Improvement in Educator Preparation (CIEP) and Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). The board wanted to learn more about these accreditations. To see the full presentation, click here.

Administrative Code Process: Board members requested an overview of the Alabama Administrative Code and rulemaking process, which is what happens once legislation is passed and the ALSDE needs to recreate new rules to carry out the work laid out in legislation. Jason Swann, General Counsel, and Darnell Coley, Associate General Counsel, presented on Administrative Code Process. To see the full presentation, click here.

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.