Recapping important State Board of Education policy decisions for you
Here are our key takeaways from the June 8th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.
Top 5 Key Takeaways
1. ACAP Summative Reading Subtest Scores
Alabama school districts received student scores on the ACAP reading subtest in May. A third-grade student’s score on the reading subtest of the ACAP is the initial indicator of whether they may be retained under the Alabama Literacy Act. They are also given summer school, a supplemental reading test, and a review of their reading portfolio to show if they meet minimum standards before being retained. The retention component of the law will go into effect during the 2023-2024 school year.
During the work session, the Board was updated on how second and third grade students scored on the reading subtest. The headline is that reading scores have dropped slightly from last year. On the 2023 ACAP:
- 21 percent of 2nd grade students scored below grade level, an increase of 1 percent over 2022
- 24 percent of 3rd grade students scored below grade level, an increase of 2 percent over 2022
Dr. Mackey mentioned that this year’s third graders had their kindergarten year interrupted due to COVID-19, and many had a mostly virtual first grade, which means that many lost critical instruction in learning how to read in the early grades. Similarly, many of this year’s second graders had a virtual kindergarten.
In addition, the test was changed this year to be aligned to the new 2021 English Language Arts Course of Study and the science of reading.
- Grade 2: Added phonological awareness/phonemic awareness and fluency as new reporting categories (previously was phonics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension)
- Grade 3: Added phonological awareness/phonemic awareness and fluency as new reporting categories (previously was vocabulary and reading comprehension)
Mrs. West asked what textbooks and materials were used by districts with highly diverse student populations that were high-performing. Mrs. Bonnie Short, Director of Alabama Reading Initiative, responded that while there was variation in the core curriculum and intervention programs that were used by high-performing districts, all of them were very invested in having teachers be LETRS trained (the professional development for elementary educators aligned to the science of reading).
2. Science Course of Study Update
Dr. Dennis Coe, chair of the Science Course of Study Committee, provided an update on where the Committee is in the process. The 41-member Committee began working in January and has had five meetings so far, in addition to monthly subcommittee meetings. Dr. Coe emphasized that the Committee is not endorsing any particular curriculum, but that their job is to look at what students are expected to know at the end of a course. Public comment of the Science Course of Study will begin in August.
3. Board Member Questions: Educator Prep Programs & the Science of Reading
Mrs. Jackie Ziegler requested that moving forward, educator prep programs should disclose the textbooks that they are using to the SBOE during their educator prep program approval process. She stated that it was critical for educator prep programs to have courses and textbooks aligned to the science of reading.
Some of you may remember the report from the Barksdale Institute, which found only 24% of elementary reading courses in Alabama’s educator prep programs are fully aligned to the science of reading. Alabama is currently in the second cohort of The Path Forward, an initiative of the Hunt Institute with the goal of supporting states to transform teacher preparation and licensure to align with the science of reading.
Read more about aligning our educator prep programs with the science of reading in our October 2022 Across the Board recap, linked here. If you are interested in learning more about why the science of reading is critical for students learning how to read, check out the recent podcast episode from the NY Times, linked here, or the Sold a Story podcast series, linked here.
4. Board Member Questions: Alabama Principal Leadership & Mentoring Bill
Dr. Richardson asked about one of the bills passed this session, SB300, which was supported by A+. The School Principal Leadership and Mentoring Act, which will be phased in over the next several years, provides additional annual stipends for principals ($10,000) and assistant principals ($5,000) who complete the following when fully implemented:
- Require principals to create a professional learning plan
- 5 additional days of professional learning per year
- Two-year mentoring program for new principals
- New evaluation system for principals
- Year-long Principal Leadership Academy
An overview of the bill from Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools (CLAS) can be found here.
Effective principals have almost the same effect on student learning and outcomes as effective teachers do. School leadership is key to increasing student outcomes, and the School Principal Leadership and Mentoring Act is a starting point for Alabama to raise the effectiveness of principals in schools across the state. Read the law here.
5. A+ Student VOICES Team Recognized
The A+ Student VOICES Team, a program of A+ Education Partnership, is a statewide, student-led advocacy group for high school students that work to make education better for Alabama students. The Team attended the Board meeting on Thursday and had the opportunity to meet afterward with their respective Board members and Dr. Mackey. The Team was also recognized during the meeting by Dr. Mackey during his State Superintendent’s Report. For more information about the Student VOICES Team, click here.
To see the full June 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.