Written by Corinn O’Brien, VP of Policy
Recapping important education policy decisions for you
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.
We are making a few changes to Across the Board to ensure that the content is more relevant and accessible. Moving forward, you will receive a recap that features 3-5 updates of what we believe are the most important topics covered.
Here are our key takeaways from the October 13th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students. To see the full meeting agenda, click here. To see the full work session agenda, click here.
Top 4 Key Takeaways
Barksdale Report: 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, which is the research-based way to teach reading. Ensuring that teacher candidates receive a strong foundation in the science of reading prior to entering the classroom is critical, so the ALSDE contracted with the highly-respected Barksdale Reading Institute to analyze if it’s happening at each of the 25 educator prep programs (EPPs) and make recommendations for improvements. Dr. Kelly Butler, Chief Executive Officer of the Barksdale Institute returned to discuss their final report, linked here. There were several key findings that stood out to us, including:
- There is limited course alignment to the science of reading across Alabama educator prep programs. Only 23% of courses offered in elementary educator prep programs are fully aligned to the science of reading, with 50% “inconsistently aligned”, 16% “not aligned”, and 11% “not sufficient information”.
- Textbooks and instructional materials make a difference. The courses that were most aligned were using the best textbooks that were aligned to the science of reading. Barksdale found that 62% of the reading textbooks currently being used were either fairly aligned, minimally aligned, or not aligned.
- College faculty need a safe space to learn the Science of Reading. Right now, LETRS training is available and free for any Alabama EPP faculty interested in participating and any faculty who completed LETRS successfully are able to receive the stipend that teachers receive.
Overall, while improvements are being made, there are elementary educators graduating from Alabama educator prep programs that aren’t prepared to teach students how to read. The State Board of Education has the authority to approve or deny educator prep programs. A+ Education Partnership fully supports and encourages the SBOE to hold educator prep programs accountable. Every teacher candidate deserves to be properly prepared to teach their students to read and every student deserves a teacher who knows how to teach them to read.
Praxis Results: The work session kicked off with an interesting discussion about the report released last week from the Alabama Commission on the Evaluation of Services (ACES) on the dismal first-time Praxis passage rates of Alabama educator prep programs. The report shared that only 6 out of 14 universities had a higher than 50% first-time Elementary Praxis passage rate. ALSDE’s Dr. Denise Peacock pushed back on these numbers, citing that these percentages only counted students that passed every sub-test on the Elementary Praxis. We were happy to hear multiple board members push back and share their concerns, citing that even if programs have Praxis passage rates that are 10-15 percentage points higher than 50%, we still have a problem that we need to address.
ALSDE Legislative Priorities: During the meeting, SBOE members approved the ALSDE’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request. This proposed budget, which outlines the priorities of the department, will go to Governor Ivey’s administration next month and the legislature next year. To take a look at this budget, click here. Later in the work session, ALSDE’s Jessica Sanders shared an overview of potential legislative priorities and bills that may resurface in the upcoming 2023 legislative session, including the First-Grade Readiness bill (HB 331) and Alabama Credential Quality and Transparency Act (HB 241).
CCR Graduation Requirement: Last year, 92% of Alabama students graduated high school, but only 76% earned a College and Career Readiness (CCR) indicator. In order to close this gap, Governor Ivey has urged the SBOE adopt a a change in the administrative code to require students to earn a College and Career Readiness (CCR) indicator in order to graduate.
Last month, 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, which is the rule change that will require a CCR indicator for graduation. Last month’s vote opened a 45-day public comment period which will end on November 10. If the board votes to adopt this rule change at next month’s meeting, the class of 2028, who start 9th grade next year, will be the first class that it will apply to. In response to a few board member concerns, the ALSDE added additional grant money to the FY24 budget for districts that need additional resources to expand college and career opportunities available to students. A+ Education Partnership fully supports this change and encourages the SBOE to vote yes next month. To read more about this rule change, read our September Across the Board, linked 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.