Recapping important State Board of 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.
Here are our key takeaways from the December 8th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students. To see the full December meeting agenda, click here. To see the full December work session agenda, click here.
Top 4 Key Takeaways
>Higher Education Report Cards: Report cards for the 26 educator preparation programs in Alabama were released to the Board. These report cards show 1) Praxis Passage Rates of the teacher candidates that have passed the Praxis (test teachers take to get certified), and 2) Survey Data of how teacher candidates and their school leaders judge their own performance on key aspects of the job.
Why does this matter for Alabama students? Every student deserves an excellent teacher that is prepared to help them succeed in the classroom. While the conversation focused on the higher ed report cards, there were several key concerns that emerged about the overall Alabama teacher pipeline:
- Alabama needs better longitudinal data to help us understand the strength of our teacher pipeline.
- We need to continue to ensure educator prep programs are adjusting their elementary reading curriculum to align to the science of reading. The Barksdale Institute found that only 24% of Alabama’s educator prep reading courses are aligned to the science of reading. To learn more about how schools got away from research-based reading instruction, check out the new podcast Sold a Story.
- In order for Alabama to solve our teacher retention crisis, we need to dig into the root causes of why so many people are no longer attracted to the teaching profession. Across the country, states are tackling this in innovative ways that we could replicate, linked here, here, here, and here.
>First-Grade Readiness: The Board considered a resolution that would announce its intent to adopt a new section of the Alabama Administrative Code pertaining to first grade readiness. For the last two legislative sessions, the Legislature came close to passing a bill that would do something similar. This proposed code section (see page 36) would require each local board of education to adopt and implement a policy ensuring students entering the first grade can demonstrate first-grade readiness, either by successfully completing kindergarten or passing a first-grade readiness assessment of essential developmental and physical skills. A+ Education Partnership strongly supports a first-grade readiness policy and applauds the board for moving in this direction. However, we are concerned the wording in the current proposal does not provide enough clarity on the assessment that would be used to determine first-grade readiness. Without more specificity, it could result in different bars for first-grade entry in different districts, which could hurt students and create confusion for parents. We strongly recommend the State Board define the assessment to be used so there is one clear policy and bar to define first-grade readiness that all districts adopt.
Why does this matter for Alabama students? Kindergarten is critical to ensuring that we give every Alabama student a strong start. Kids learn critical developmental skills in Kindergarten that prepare them for first grade and beyond. If a student does not attend Kindergarten, it’s important that they demonstrate that they have been taught those basic skills, or they will start first grade a year behind 90% of their peers which will impact them for the rest of their lives.
>Alternative Teacher Prep Pathways: The Board considered a resolution that would announce its intent to adopt a new Alabama Administrative Code section that allows alternative teacher preparation organizations to come to Alabama. This action is required by a law enacted during the 2022 Legislative Session. After an intense discussion at the September Board meeting, the proposed resolution has been revised and brought back to the agenda for consideration.
In the new draft, there was proposed language that would have added additional restrictions on alternative prep programs. However, Dr. Mackey stated that there are no alternative teacher prep programs in the country that could meet the new requirements laid out in the new draft. Dr. Mackey urged the board to consider that the Legislature would likely not be happy with rules that don’t allow any alternative teacher prep programs to come to Alabama, which is why they passed a law in the first place. The board decided to remove the proposed language from the draft that it will vote on next month (See final language on page 31).
Why does this matter for Alabama students? Regardless of where teacher candidates are trained, every student deserves an excellent teacher that is prepared to help them succeed in the classroom.
Researchers have found that teacher candidates graduating from traditional educator prep programs are not necessarily more effective in raising student academic outcomes than teachers candidates from alternative teacher preparation programs. However, they did find that traditional teacher candidates do stay in the classroom longer than alternative candidates, which is very important because teacher turnover is detrimental to students and very expensive (It costs $20K to replace a teacher).
However, alternative teacher preparation programs have reduced barriers to enter the profession (such as the expense and time requirements of attending a traditional college program) and have been able to attract more diverse teacher candidates than traditional teacher preparation programs, which research has shown is critical for raising outcomes for students of color.
>ICYMI – School Report Cards: Report cards for Alabama schools were released in November for the first time since before the pandemic. Click here to see your school’s grade for 2022. Overall, the state received a B. While there has been some growth, it is notable that still only half of Alabama students are proficient in reading and less than a third are proficient at math. Check out this al.com article for more information on the metrics used to calculate school and state grades.
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.