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 usually 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 8th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.
September 2022 Meeting
All members were present. On today’s agenda:
Administrative Code Changes: The Board voted to approve the following changes to the Alabama Administrative Code:
- Banning Teachers from Teaching Topics related to LGBTQ+ Issues – The board unanimously voted to approve the amended Alabama Administrative Code Rule 290-040-040-.02, Pertaining to Certain Teaching Techniques, linked here. The Legislature passed a bill requiring this change. Two teachers testified in opposition to this rule change, which bans the discussion of LGBTQ+ issues in elementary classrooms. Dana Pig, a teacher from Tuscaloosa, shared her disappointment about criminalizing educators. Rachel Mobley, teacher with 8 years of experience including AP, urged board members to consider revising language she called too subjective that could result in the dismissal of an excellent teacher (especially in the midst of a teacher shortage). To read more about this legislation, click here.
- Mental Health Service Coordinators – The board adopted new Alabama Administrative Code Rule 290-4-5-.05, Pertaining to Mental Health Service Coordinators, linked here. This implements a law passed by the Legislature, providing a Mental Health Service Coordinator position to every school district. Jackie Ziegler and Stephanie Bell voted against this. Two community members testified during a public hearing on this rule change. Dr. Daniel Birdsong, President of the Alabama School Counselor Association, spoke in support of the rule adoption, citing that the language clarified the difference between licensed mental health therapists and school counseling. There has been confusion about the new “opt-in” requirement for services. Marla Young, a current Mental Health Coordinator, also spoke about the confusion about the new requirement for parents to opt-in to mental health services.
- Fiscal Year 2023 ALSDE Operating Budget – The board voted to approve the Alabama State Department of Education Fiscal Year 2023 Operating Budget, with an abstention from Stephanie Bell.
- Annual Apportionment of Foundation Program Funds – The board unanimously voted to approve the amended Alabama Administrative Code Rule 290-2-1-.01, Pertaining to Annual Apportionment of Foundation Program Funds.
- Local Mechanic Certification – The board unanimously voted to adopt Amended Alabama Administrative Code Rule 290-2-4-.06
Future Administrative Code Changes: The Board voted 6-3 to announce their intent to adopt Amended Alabama Administrative Code Rule 290-3- 1-.02, Pertaining to Regulations Governing Public Schools, opening a 45-day public comment period. You are able to read the proposed rule change here. This change would make achieving a College and Career Readiness Indicator a requirement for graduation, beginning with the class of 2028.
- Governor Ivey shared that it was time to take action to close the gap between the graduation rate and College and Career Readiness rate, urging that this was about closing opportunity gaps so that students are ready for the next step.
- The Alabama Workforce Council and the Business Education Alliance (BEA) are also urging the board to adopt. A+ also supports adoption.
- Dr. Chestnut shared that she was concerned for students in her district who don’t have access to as many programs or equitable funding, knowing that all students deserve to leave high school with one of those indicators. Dr. Mackey pointed out that students in every district have the opportunity to achieve a CCR indicator on the ACT or the ACT WorkKeys exam. He also shared that expanding access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses through training and preparation to rural and high-poverty schools through A+ College Ready. He also shared that the greatest opportunity to expand CCR is dual enrollment. The hope is that all high schools have dual enrollment opportunities, with support from a $26 million line item in the Education Trust Fund budget. Finally, Dr. Mackey spoke about Career Tech programs and the need to expand these in rural and high-poverty schools, noting that the biggest challenge is sustaining these programs over time. The earliest the board could adopt this is the November board meeting, but it also depends on the amount of feedback that is received from the public.
- The goal is to apply this to the next graduating cohort, which would start ninth grade next year and graduate in 2028. In Favor: Ivey, West, McCarty, Richardson, Chestnut, Reynolds. Opposed: McCrae, Ziegler, Bell
Alabama Public Charter School Commission Nominees: Board Members voted 7-1-1 to approve Luis Ferrer’s appointment to the Commission. The Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon had nominated Luis Ferrer and Debbie Alvis.
2021 Alabama School Counseling Program of Distinction: Congratulations to the 2021 Alabama School Counseling Programs of Distinction across the state:
- Amanda Blake and Sheniqua Roberson, School Counselors at Daphne Middle School in Baldwin County School System
- Summer Davis, Kristy Elderkin, and Katryna Kinn, School Counselors, E. R. Dickson Elementary School, Mobile County School System
- Carissa Davis and Janie Evans, School Counselors, J. Larry Newton Elementary School, Baldwin County School System
- Shannon Parker, School Counselor, Malachi Wilkerson Middle School, Birmingham City School System
- Brandi Shanklin, Latonya Jemison, And Emily Woodroof, School Counselors, Hillcrest High School, Tuscaloosa County School System
Educator Prep Program Approval: The Board voted to approve an early childhood education class B program at the University of Montevallo. The approval is only through June 30, 2023 to give the program time to implement changes recommended by the Barksdale Institute to improve teacher preparation in the science of reading. This short-term approval is the same process other similar programs are undergoing.
Superintendent’s Report: Superintendent Willingham from Walker County Schools was present to recognize the first three schools in Alabama to reach Level 1 Certification for Marzano’s High Reliability Schools: Dora High School, Bankhead Middle School, and Cordova Elementary School. Team members from Walker County stated later in the work session that A+ College Ready’s Marzano training had given them an excellent foundation on this journey. A+ College Ready has partnered with Dr. Phil Warrick from Marzano Resources to use the New Art & Science of Teaching with program schools and Alabama Best Practice Center has used High Reliability Schools in their work with Key Leaders Network.
September 2022 Work Session
Superintendent’s Updates: 2021-2022 ACAP Assessment Results and Accountability – Shanthia Washington, Paul Bonner, and Maggie Hicks presented a comprehensive overview of 2021-2022 assessment scores. To see the full presentation deck, click here. To read AL.com’s coverage, click here. Below are the headlines:
- BOTTOM LINE: Student performance on ACAP (Grades 3-8) rose across the board from Spring 2021 to Spring 2022 on ELA, Math, and Science at every grade level. This is certainly welcome news and reflects the improvements that have been made now that students are fully back in the classroom. Of course, while this represents a strong start, much work remains to be done.
- ACT with Writing (Grade 11): Alabama’s composite score increased a tenth from 17.2 to 17.3. This is below the national average of 20.6. Proficiency in ELA increased from 28% to 29%, Math was flat at 23%, and Science increased from 30% to 31%.
- ACAP Math Summative (Grades 2-8): Of all the results, the greatest improvements were in math, with a 6 percentage point increase overall from Spring 2021 to Spring 2022, with 30% of students proficient. Each grade level saw an increase from last year. This is up 5 to 8 points across all racial groups, as well as for English language learners. Over 95% of school districts posted improvements of the math scores from last year.
- ACAP Science Summative (Grades 4, 6, 8): There was a 4 percentage point increase overall from Spring 2021 to Spring 2022, with 36% of students proficient. Among students considered economically disadvantaged, 25% met proficiency expectations in science. Each grade level saw an increase from last year.
- ACAP ELA Summative (Grades 3-8): There was a 2 percentage point increase overall from Spring 2021 to Spring 2022, with 50% of students proficient. This includes 36% of economically disadvantaged students meeting proficiency expectations. The proficiency rates increased from 2 to 3 points across all racial groups. It’s important to note the ACAP ELA Summative assessment will be changing based on the newly adopted 2019 ELA Course of Study next year.
- ACAP Reading Subtest (Grades 2-3): 78% of third graders scored “sufficient” (not proficient) or above for the reading subtest, which is the test used under the Alabama Literacy Act (ALA) to identify students who are \reading below grade level at the end of third grade. This means that 22% of third graders or 11,725 students were recommended to attend summer reading camps to receive additional intervention and support. This summer, only 5,215 students took the ACAP Supplemental Reading test at the end of the summer reading camps, and 51% of these students scored “sufficient” or above. This means that 49%, or 2,532 students, scored below and will now go through the reading portfolio to determine if they have met the minimum reading standards. Under the ALA, students not meeting those minimum standards would repeat 3rd grade to receive additional support before moving on. However, the retention portion of the Alabama Literacy Act was delayed by the Legislature until the 2023-2024 school year.
- Reading Cut Scores: Representatives from Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), the vendor responsible for ACAP, explained the process of setting the cut scores for reading. To see the full presentation from DRC, click here. In July 2021, DRC convened a committee of 12 Alabama educators in a series of standard-setting workshops, where they studied test items and recommended a cut score of 486. After this process, the ALSDE and Technical Assessment Committee (TAC) recommended to the SBOE that the cut score was officially set at two conditional standards errors of deviation below to 452, which is identified as reading “sufficiency”. There was a great conversation about the need for districts and schools to keep a close eye on students who score just above the reading cut score. It will be critical to ensure these students are still receiving intensive reading interventions and access to summer reading camps. Dr. Wayne Reynolds encouraged districts to use ESSER relief funding to provide these extra interventions. Additionally, DRC representatives emphasized the importance of test item release, so that teachers are able to see how standards are assessed.
- Alabama Accountability Systems: ALSDE staff shared an update on accountability systems, now there are two systems: the federal and state due to the new legislation that passed this year extending the amount of time EL students are excluded from the report card from 2 years to 5 years. The Alabama Education Report Cards will restart this year and will be published, hopefully by November or December at the latest.
Special Education Services Update: Alabama’s special education services have been scrutinized by federal education officials in recent years as students with disabilities have had the lowest achievement scores across subjects and grade levels. The ALSDE has received over $38 million in additional funding through ARP ESSER to expand support for students with disabilities and have dedicated millions of dollars to bring in consultants to overhaul special education at the state level.
ALSDE staff shared an update on this overhaul that Alabama schools are providing to students with disabilities, over 95,200 students which is 12.73% of enrolled students in Alabama. She shared a high-level overview of the work of her office, including providing more professional learning and coaching for special education teachers, increasing the use of evidence-based interventions, and providing additional support to novice special education directors and temporary certificate special ed teachers. To see her full presentation deck, click here.
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.
Fiscal Year 2024 Foundation Program Request: Brandon Payne presented an update on the ALSDE FY 2024 request, with a few items that received increases including:
- Assistant Principals: Every school with an ADM of 250 or more would receive a minimum of 1 assistant principal.
- Computer Science for Alabama (CS4A) Program: $250,000 was added to bring the total requested increase to $750,000
- Mental Health Service Coordinator Program: Increase from $1.32 million to $2.12 million
- Special Education Teacher Incentive Stipend: $68 million was officially requested (last month this line was blank)
- Other Current Expenses (OCE): The $100 million for OCE (Other Current Expenses) will be pulled out of the Foundation Program and given its own line item to address school safety in schools.
Board Member Questions: Dr. Wayne Reynolds asked about the al.com article on the $15 million for the 15 persistently failing schools. Dr. Mackey explained that Governor Ivey asked the ALSDE to look at the schools that have persistently struggled and they identified 15 schools. The ALSDE hired James Wright from Professional Development Services, LLC to oversee this process. The primary challenges identified by these schools are staff turnover, class sizes, and the availability of mental health and social services for students and their families. Along with the Alabama Literacy Act and Alabama Numeracy Act, Dr. Mackey shared that this was the first time in Alabama that they have allocated money to where the greatest need exists.
Resolutions to be Voted on at the October Meeting:
Alternative Teacher Preparation Pathways: There was a discussion about Alabama Administrative Code Rule 290-3-3-.60, which implements legislation that was passed during the 2022 Legislative Session to expand Alternative Teacher Preparation Pathways in Alabama. The board voted in June to put this rule change out for public comment in July and the department has received an overwhelming response from the Deans from the Colleges of Education.
Alternative Teacher Preparation Programs offer a pathway to certification to teacher candidates that already have a Bachelor’s degree, but don’t have a degree in Education and have not completed a traditional Educator Preparation Program (EPP) at a college. Teaching candidates who go through the Alternative Program receive training that prepares them for the classroom and are still required to complete the same assessments. This pathway is different from the traditional educator prep programs that prepare teachers. Several board members were concerned about not holding IHEs and Alternative Teacher Preparation Programs to the same standards. This proposal will be modified and brought back to the next work session.
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.