Recapping important State Board of Education policy decisions for you
Here are our key takeaways from the September 14th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.
Top 5 Key Takeaways
1. Revised Cut Score for ACAP Reading Assessment
The 2023 administration of the ACAP Reading assessment was changed to reflect changes in the new ELA Course of Study (e.g. more phonological/phonemic awareness and fluency), meaning that cut scores (the minimum score a student must earn to be “sufficient” in reading) must be adjusted to be aligned to the new test. In August, the Board discussed the options for adjusting the cut scores.
- A cut score of 435 (for 3rd grade) reflects a 90% probability that students not achieving that score are below grade level.
- A cut score of 473 reflects a 70% probability that students not achieving that score are below grade level.
The Board voted 5-3 to adopt the resolution, setting the cut score at 435 and committing to review it again in one year.
There was concern expressed by multiple Board members about the choice of the lower cut score, as it “doesn’t represent grade level proficiency for our students.” However, Dr. Mackey made the case that starting with a lower cut score in the first year where students will be retained would allow us to make sure everything is implemented properly before raising the score over time. This is similar to action taken by Mississippi when they implemented their successful literacy law. Dr. Mackey committed to bring the board data on implementation and reassess the cut score again next year. We expect the score to be raised over time to accurately reflect grade level reading and ensure that all struggling students get the extra support they need.
2. FY25 Education Trust Fund Budget
At the August 29th Board retreat in Tuscaloosa, the Board discussed its request of the FY25 ETF budget. ALSDE staff made suggestions to increase several line items, notably including the Alabama Numeracy Act, Alabama Reading Initiative, Principal Leadership and Mentoring Act, and others. This month, the Board continued its discussion on the budget as it prepared to vote on the final request in October.
As the Board continues to work on its budget request until it votes on the final version next month, here are more line items to watch:
- Struggling Readers Beyond Grade 3: Currently, the ALSDE has suggested a level funding request of $2 million. However, there was significant discussion about increasing this to a higher amount that would be able to reach more students. The current $2 million is being used to continue a pilot program for struggling middle school readers. Board members asked ALSDE staff to come up with an estimate of how many struggling readers there are in grades 4-6, and come up with an amount to potentially add in as a line item under Alabama Reading Initiative funding. This would require a change to the budget language to allow ARI to work above third grade. Because students don’t stop struggling when they leave third grade, this work is crucial to the success of Alabama’s students. It should not, however, come at the expense of the youngest students or “dilute” the current work of ARI.
- School Safety, Security, and Climate: The ALSDE has suggested an increase of $18.6 million. During the 2023 session, the Legislature appropriated $40 million of one-time supplemental funds for school safety. The Department suggested requesting $20 million annually moving forward to cover school safety expenses.
- Underperforming Schools: The ALSDE has suggested level funding of $10 million for the Governor’s turnaround initiative.
- Multi-Tier System of Supports: The ALSDE has suggested funding of $4 million to implement the MTSS framework that is required in the Alabama Literacy Act and Alabama Numeracy Act
Special Education Teacher Incentive Stipend: The ALSDE suggested funding of $34 million (at the Board retreat, the suggested funding was $6.8 million). This would provide all special education classroom teachers (regardless of if they are paid with state, federal, or local funds) with a $5,000 stipend plus benefits.
3. Administrative Code – Education Accountability
During the work session, the Board discussed a change to the Alabama Administrative Code language on education accountability. The Legislature passed an update to the 2013 Alabama Accountability Act during the 2023 session. The changes to the administrative code are to align the code with the changes to the law. The biggest update is changing from “failing school” language to “priority schools.” The new policy also changes the way schools are identified under the law from “schools in the bottom 6%” on statewide assessments to D and F schools on the state report card. According to ALSDE staff, there were about 233 D or F schools on last year’s report card.
4. Administrative Code – Alternative Teacher Prep Organizations
The Board voted 7-0 to announce intent to repeal and adopt new Administrative Code language on alternative teacher prep 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.
5. Administrative Code – Charter Schools
The Board voted unanimously to announce intent to adopt amended Administrative Code language on charter schools. The Legislature also passed updates to Alabama’s 2015 charter law. The intended changes include adding a definition of charter operator, which applies only to conversion charter schools, and new guidelines for local charter authorizers, who are now required to reapply to be an authorizer every 5 years. 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 September 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.