Across the Board March 2023: Key Takeaways from the ALBOE Meeting

Recapping important State Board of Education policy decisions for you

Here are our key takeaways from the March 9th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students. All board members, except Governor Ivey, were present at today’s meeting. This was Ms. Marie Manning’s second meeting as a newly-elected board member from District 6, who is filling the seat of retiring board member Dr. Cynthia McCarty. Welcome, Ms. Manning!

Top 4 Key Takeaways

1. Adopted K-3 ELA Textbooks: The Board passed a resolution approving the recommendations of the State Textbooks Committee for K-3 English Language Arts textbooks, with 7 votes of support (Reynolds, West, Ziegler, Chestnut, Richardson, Manning, McCrae) and 1 vote in opposition (Bell). This concludes a lengthy process that began in 2021, when the Literacy Task Force and ELA state textbook committee began the process of reviewing K-3 ELA curricula to ensure their alignment with the science of reading, the Alabama Literacy Act, and the Alabama ELA Course of Study. With this adoption today,  there are now two state-approved core reading curricula options available to districts that meet the requirements of the Alabama Literacy Act. Now, districts will begin the process of local textbook review and adoption.  Mark Dixon, President of A+ Education Partnership, spoke in support of the resolution.

2. Adopted First Grade Readiness and Alternative Teacher Preparation Organizations Policies: Today, the Board officially adopted changes to the administrative code on First Grade Readiness (6-2 vote) and Alternative Teacher Preparation Organizations (7-1 vote). 

Both of these changes are related to legislation during the 2022 session. The First Grade Readiness code change is similar to a First Grade Readiness bill that passed the Alabama House of Representatives last year but did not pass the Senate. Rep. Warren pre-filed a new First Grade Readiness bill again this session. In addition, Governor Kay Ivey proposed requiring Kindergarten during her State of the State Address (see our rundown of her speech here). This is a good first step by the Board, and follow-up will be important to ensure it is implemented effectively and consistently at the local level. We support further action from the Legislature to require Kindergarten so that all students have a strong start.

The Board was required to adopt a policy on Alternative Teacher Preparation Organizations after the passage of HB307 by the Legislature last year, which they did today. The policy has been discussed at length by board members and has undergone numerous revisions during its development, including some that were suggested by several deans of traditional educator prep programs.

3. Board Member Questions – Summer Reading Camps: Mrs. Zeigler asked about summer reading camp implementation across the state. Summer reading camps are required to be offered by the Alabama Literacy Act to provide additional support for students struggling to learn to read. Mrs. Zeigler mentioned three issues that districts were dealing with: 

  1. Transportation costs in rural areas – Because some schools have low attendance, districts may not be able to offer camps at every school, meaning that students may spend longer time on buses to go to one chosen site. 
  2. Attendance – Student attendance has been lower than anticipated. 
  3. Staffing – Some districts are paying teachers the daily rate to work summer reading camps, but some are not.

Currently, most summer reading camps are being funded by federal COVID relief funds. Since these funds will be expiring in September 2024, Dr. Mackey requested $24-70 million to cover summer reading and math camps in FY24 in the recent legislative budget hearing.

A number of important discussions around collaboration efforts for summer programs arose from this question, including: 

  • Whether school districts were allowed to offer summer programs together. There is nothing in the Numeracy or Literacy Acts that prevent that from happening. In fact, research shows that district partnerships with community-based organizations are critical in providing high-quality summer learning experiences that incentivize student attendance and increase student achievement and academic growth. To learn more about high-quality summer and afterschool programs, click here.
  • Whether teacher candidates could participate in summer camps. Summer school teachers are required to be “effective” in the law, but there are opportunities for pre-service teachers to work alongside experienced teachers. 
  • Offering teachers longer contracts than the traditional school year. Dr. Chestnut wanted to get teacher feedback on potential Board action on the matter, and the next steps include finding a way to put a survey out to teachers.

4. Board Member Questions – Summer Reading Camps: Mrs. Zeigler surfaced concern about the ACT and how well it measures Alabama students’ learning during high school. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal law that governs public schools, requires that high school students be assessed at least once during high school on reading and math. Alabama currently gives the ACT to all students to meet this requirement after transitioning away from the graduation exam in 2013. There was a discussion among Board members about bringing back another assessment to measure student learning in high school. End of Course tests (EOCs) are exams that students take to measure learning in specific courses. Typically, End of Course test scores make up a portion (15-20%) of student course grades, which are a better indicator of college and career success than graduation exit exams in high school. A+ would love to see EOCs implemented in Alabama (see research from the Fordham Institute on EOCs here). Dr. Mackey proposed the next step to include a presentation to the Board on what other states are doing.

To see the full March Board Meeting and Work Session agendas, click here.

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

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.