Op-Ed: Alabama Students Are Making Progress. Now, It’s Time to Double Down.

By: Corinn O’Brien, Vice President of Policy, A+ Education Partnership 

This piece was originally published in Alabama Daily News on November 3, 2022.

Last week, Alabama students got some great news. According to the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Alabama weathered the COVID-19 pandemic much better than most other states. We held steady or made small gains in our scores in reading and math while much of the nation had significant losses. In addition, a new study from researchers at Stanford and Harvard found that Alabama districts claimed seven of the top ten districts in the country for reading gains of Black students. That’s right. Seven out of 10. And we claimed ALL of the spots on the top 10 districts for reading gains of Hispanic students. Paired together, this news puts Alabama at the forefront of the nation’s pandemic recovery.

In terms of the NAEP rankings, Alabama is now 39th in 4th grade reading, up from 49th. We were one of only three states that made any gains at all, with all other states dropping significantly. This is a big deal. When we discuss education data, sometimes it’s easy to forget that these numbers represent actual students and teachers who have been working incredibly hard during these unimaginably challenging years. These results will have a lasting impact on the trajectory of our students for years to come.

These reading scores show that our statewide commitment and investment in early literacy is working. The Alabama Literacy Act that was passed pre-pandemic led to historic investments in teacher training in the science of reading, coaching, and effective tools in the classroom. Maintaining our momentum as our state leaders and educators fully implement this law is critical to ensuring that these small gains turn into big wins for our students and set them on a path for success.

In math, the picture isn’t as pretty, but it’s still not as bad as the rest of the country. In 4th grade math, our scores held steady alongside one other state while all other states dropped significantly, which meant we catapulted from 52nd to 40th in the country. No other state made gains and the rest of the nation’s scores plummeted.

With passage of the Alabama Numeracy Act this year, our state now has first-in-nation math legislation that provides a comprehensive plan and funding to give our K-5th grade students a strong foundation in critical math skills. As state leaders and educators commit to fully implementing this law, Alabama students and teachers will have the tools they need to be successful, and we can solve our long-standing challenges in math.

For the first time in a long time, folks across the country are looking to Alabama to learn more about what we are doing in K-12 education. Our state is poised and ready to take on the monumental and urgent challenge in front of us. Let’s build on this momentum, chart the path forward, and show ‘em how it’s done.