Recapping important State Board of Education policy decisions for you
Here are our key takeaways from the August 10th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.
Top 5 Key Takeaways
1. Cut Scores for Revised ACAP Reading Assessment
In September 2022, the SBOE, after hearing from DRC (the company who makes the ACAP exam) and the TAC (technical advisory committee), set the cut score for the ACAP reading subtest at 452 for 3rd grade. The cut score is the minimum score that a 3rd grade student must earn to be “sufficient” in reading and be promoted to 4th grade. Students falling below the cut score have the opportunity to go to a summer reading camp, pass a second reading test, have their student reading portfolio reviewed, and may qualify for good cause exemptions to be promoted. If not, they are retained in 3rd grade to receive additional reading support to get them to grade level. This year, the subtest was revised to include phonological/phonemic awareness and fluency as new reporting categories (see June 2023). Because of this, the cut score also must be revised.
The committee of educators and the TAC that looks at the cut score made two recommendations to the Board: the cut score with no adjustments (473) and the -2 SEM cut score (435). If the -2 SEM cut score is adopted, there is a reliability of over 90%, meaning that the state is almost 100% sure that the students not meeting the score are below grade level and need additional support. With the cut score with no adjustment (473), the reliability is closer to 75%.
What does this mean? With a lower cut score of 435, you can be more sure that the students being retained are below grade level and need the extra help, but there is a chance that you might pass along a student who needs help to the fourth grade. With a higher cut score of 473, you can be more sure that you are catching all the students that need help, but you also have a risk of retaining students who do not need extra support.
Board members expressed their concerns about holding back students that were potentially ready to move on, as well as passing along students that need extra support.
Mrs. West, Board vice president, asked Board members to get their questions to Dr. Mackey so that they could get answers and deliberate more before the vote next month
2. Sumter County School System Intervention
The SBOE unanimously voted to initiate a state takeover in Sumter County Schools during the Board meeting. According to the resolution, the state takeover is due to “extreme challenges related to facilities, personnel, and finances.” The Sumter County Board of Education unanimously voted earlier in August to consent to the state takeover. You can read the resolution here, which lays out the Board’s reasons for initiating the takeover. For more context on Sumter County Schools, read this article from al.com.
There was a significant discussion about the takeover before the vote, including questions about how the intervention process will work, how personnel in Sumter County will be affected, how the intervention will impact the school system’s financial status, and more. Dr. Mackey said that the local superintendent has done a good job communicating with parents so far, and that the Department will continue to communicate through her. They do plan to hold some town hall meetings to answer questions from the public so that no one is “left in the dark.”
3. PCG Report Update
Public Consulting Group (PCG) released a report in March 2020 outlining a review of the ALSDE it undertook beginning in 2019. The priority recommendations of that report to the Department included the following: take the lead, develop and implement a strategy to action plan, focus first on the priorities, hold schools and districts accountable, and significantly reorganize the ALSDE internally. Read the original report and executive summary for more information.
As part of the strategy to action plan, PCG worked with the ALSDE to create a tracker of deliverables for the Department to complete. Of those deliverables for May 2023, twenty were completed, and eight are partially complete. You can read the full update on the work here.
4. Alabama State Department of Education FY2024 Operating Budget
In the Board meeting, the SBOE announced its intent to adopt changes to the Alabama Administrative Code to be aligned to the Fiscal Year 2024 Education Trust Fund passed by the Legislature this spring.
In the work session, the SBOE discussed the Department’s FY2024 budget. The ALSDE will receive $31.2 million in the upcoming fiscal year for operations and maintenance. The FY24 budget will have increases in personnel costs, rentals and leases, services, transportation equipment operation, grants and benefits, and transportation equipment.
In addition, the department will be starting the fiscal year with two additional full time staff positions from the general operating fund, and 18 additional full time staff from non-general operating fund sources. Most of that increase (12.5 positions) will be in the Office of Math Improvement, created by 2022’s Alabama Numeracy Act.
The Board will discuss the budget for the Foundation Program, the money that is distributed to local school districts, at the Board Retreat on August 29-30 in Tuscaloosa.
5. Administrative Code Changes Post 2023 Legislative Session
During the work session, the Board discussed its intent to adopt two new changes to the Alabama Administrative Code.
- Alternative Teacher Preparation Organizations: The Alabama Legislature passed a law during the 2023 Legislative Session to change the requirements for Alternative Teacher Preparation Organizations. The law allowing these programs to operate in Alabama was originally passed during the 2022 Legislative Session. Because of the changes made by the Legislature, the Board was required to make changes to their Administrative Code language that dealt with the programs. The Board will repeal that section of the Code entirely and replace it with compliant language, which you can read here. These changes are expected to allow more Alternative Prep Programs to operate in Alabama.
- Charter Schools: Similarly, the Legislature passed updates to Alabama’s 2015 Charter law. Previously, the SBOE was required to vote on nominations made by state leaders (such as the Governor’s and Lieutenant Governor’s office) to the charter commission. Now, the Board has been removed from the appointment process entirely. The Board will adopt an amended code section to reflect the changes in the charter law, which you can read here.
To see the full August Board Meeting and Work Session agendas, click here.
The Alabama State Board of Education usually meets on the second Thursday of each month, with the exception of the July meeting, 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.