Across the Board January 2024: Key Takeaways from the ALBOE Meeting

Recapping important State Board of Education policy decisions for you

Here are our key takeaways from the January 11th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.

Top 3 Takeaways

1. Aligning Educator Prep Programs to the Science of Reading

The Board announced its intent to adopt a new Administrative Code Section entitled “Literacy Coursework: Science of Reading” by a unanimous vote. The new section updates the standards for teaching reading in early childhood education, elementary education, and collaborative special education courses at educator prep programs and aligns them to the science of reading. The new standards must be implemented in coursework for pre-service teachers by August 2024. In addition, the code prohibits the use of three-cueing, an approach to teaching reading proven to be ineffective, in educator prep programs and K-12 public schools.

Some changes have been made since the Board discussed it at the December work session. One of the biggest changes was the additional language on three-cueing. The new version provides a definition of what three-cueing is and explicitly prohibits its use in coursework, materials, and instructional strategies in both Alabama educator prep programs and K-12 public schools. There were also a number of smaller changes made in Standard C (phonics and word recognition), Standard D (automatic-fluent reading of text), and Standard E (vocabulary). You can see the code language as voted on today here

Teachers have to be fully prepared to teach students how to read on their first day in the classroom. Setting standards aligned to the science of reading that outline what teacher candidates need to know before entering the classroom is an important step towards increasing the number of Alabama students who are reading proficiently. In the coming weeks, A+ will be reviewing these standards and sharing our thoughts with the Board. You can share your thoughts on the code addition here

2. School Choice Options for Students Attending Priority Schools

The Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) provides school choice options for students attending low-performing schools. During the 2023 session, the Legislature passed changes to that law, allowing students who attend priority schools (those that received a D or F score on the state report card) to have more options for where they can attend school. The changes to the law also included raising the eligibility from families earning 185% or below the federal poverty line, up to families earning 250% or below the federal poverty line. 

Students attending priority schools have four options for enrollment: 

  • Continue to attend the priority school
  • Enroll in a different school in the same district that is not a priority school (if the school has capacity )
  • Enroll in a school in a different district that is not a priority school (if the school has capacity)
  • Enroll in a nonpublic school (Families who choose to enroll their student in a nonpublic school may qualify for a tax credit)

The Board discussed those changes to the law, and how that would affect districts. If students choose to enroll in a school in a different district or a nonpublic school, their district would no longer receive state funding for that student. If students choose to enroll in a different school in the same district, the district is required to provide those students with transportation. 

Districts are required to notify families that their student attends a priority school and what their options are. Families then inform the district of what option they will choose. The ALSDE is asking districts to report what options parents select so they have data on how many students are transferring between schools and districts.

3. Resolution on Cell Phone Use in Schools

In December, the Board had a discussion about cell phone use in schools. In Alabama, only one district (Montgomery County) has banned cell phones in schools entirely. Many others ban cell phone use during class time, but they can be used during lunch or transition times. Dr. Mackey shared that the Board did not have the authority to ban cell phones in schools completely but could require local boards to have a policy on cell phones.  

The draft resolution presented to the Board “strongly encourages” local boards to adopt a policy limiting the use of cell phones and other devices while on school property. It also encourages boards to provide training and support to school staff and to review these policies annually. 

There is a law (section 16-1-27 of the Code of Alabama) from several years ago that allows local boards to permit students to use electronic devices at school with the permission of school officials. Dr. Mackey shared that while that law was more permissive of students’ use of electronic devices than prohibitive like the Board wanted, they could work with the Legislature to get that law amended if they felt that was a better route. The Legislature would have the authority to ban cell phones in schools entirely (like Florida did) where the SBOE cannot. 

Board members decided to speak with Superintendent Brown and Montgomery County Schools staff about how their cell phone ban came about and is being implemented at the SBOE retreat later this month before making a decision on how to proceed.

To see the full January 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.