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

Recapping important State Board of Education policy decisions for you

Here are our key takeaways from the March 14th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students.

Top 4 Takeaways

1. Educator Prep Program Alignment to the Science of Reading

Correction, 3/15/24: When this Across the Board was originally published on Thursday, March 14th, we stated that the Board voted on final adoption of these new standards. 

However, we were informed today that the Board unanimously voted to announce its intent to adopt a new administrative code rule updating the standards for preparing educators to teach reading. This is the second time the board has announced its intent to adopt this change (see the January Across the Board). According to Tina Hammonds at the ALSDE (3/15/24), there was a last-minute change to the board members’ agendas, but it was not changed on the screen or agendas viewable to the audience due to the last-minute nature. This change was made out of an abundance of caution after there was a delay in the posting of the official 45-day public comment period, and the Board will now vote on final adoption in May to allow for the full comment period. 

The standards adopted in the code will require educator preparation programs to align their courses in early childhood education, early childhood special education, elementary education, and collaborative special education to the science of reading. Coursework in these programs will be required to include phonological and phonemic awareness, phonics and word recognition, automatic-fluent reading of text, vocabulary, listening and reading comprehension, written expression, and knowledge of dyslexia and other reading profiles. The new standards must be implemented in pre-service teacher coursework by August 2024. The rule also prohibits the use of three-cueing in both educator prep programs and in K-12 public schools. To learn more about the science of reading, check out the A+ Policy Portal, linked here.

Teachers must be fully prepared to teach students how to read on their first day in the classroom. The Board setting new standards aligned to the science of reading, outlining what teacher candidates need to know before entering the classroom, and prohibiting the use of three-cueing in higher ed and in K-12 schools will improve instruction for the youngest students in the state for years to come.

2. Alternative Teacher Preparation Organizations

The Legislature first passed a law allowing alternative teacher preparation organizations to come to Alabama in 2022. In 2023, the Legislature amended that law, changing the requirements for ATPOs to increase the number approved, despite the Board’s hesitation. 

#T.E.A.C.H., following a presentation to the Board in the February work session, was on the agenda today to be the first ATPO to be approved in Alabama. After some discussion, the resolution to approve the organization did not pass (there were 4 votes for approval – Gov. Ivey, West, Manning, & McRae, 0 votes against, and 5 abstentions – Bell, Ziegler, Richardson, Chestnut, Reynolds, with 5 votes necessary to pass). 

In the work session, American Board and iTeach presented to the Board individually on their programs. Following, there was a discussion on HB308, a bill filed last week that would further amend the requirements for approval of ATPOs. The legislation would allow organizations accredited by a member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation to also be approved.

The current law states that the Board may only consider four criteria in determining which ATPOs to approve, and if those criteria are not satisfied, an organization can be approved if it is CAEP accredited or in the process of CAEP accreditation. While #T.E.A.C.H. is in the final stages of CAEP accreditation, the board still decided to not go forward with approving their application to operate in Alabama.

3. Legislative Session Updates

The Board discussed bills in various stages of the legislative process this session, including:

  • ETF Budget: The ETF, HB145, has been introduced but has not been through committee yet in either house. Dr. Mackey stated that the Board’s priority in the FY25 budget is $22 million in funding for struggling readers, which would be used to provide support to students in fourth grade and above struggling with reading, since all Alabama Literacy Act funding is required to be used for students in K-3. See the FY25 Budget Watch to stay up to date on the budget process. 
  • SB48: This bill, sponsored by Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed, would require all curricula to be posted on the website of each school, or if the school does not have a website, the local board’s website or ALSDE website. In addition, it creates a process for parents and guardians to request further information on the instructional materials available in classrooms and how they relate to standards. SB48 has passed both houses and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. 

SB176: This bill would create two new graduation requirements for high school students. The first is a workforce exploration module developed by the Alabama Community College System (ACCS) that would be implemented into the existing career prep course. The second is completion of a program or course on the list of Career RoadMap Postsecondary Opportunities, also developed by ACCS. This legislation is duplicative of the State Board’s College and Career Readiness graduation requirements and other legislation passed last session. Dr. Mackey expressed his very strong opposition to this bill and that ALSDE staff were meeting with bill sponsors. This bill has not been placed on the Senate Education Policy Committee agenda yet.

4. Powerschool Updates

Powerschool, the software that the ALSDE and schools use to manage student data, is rolling out updates that will allow teachers and administrators to have a much better understanding of student outcomes. Dashboards will now be available to view student data on enrollment, attendance, academics, assessments, Alabama Literacy Act requirements, and more. 

The Alabama Literacy Act lays out requirements for each step in the process of providing support to students not reading on grade level. The software upgrade will allow Student Reading Improvement Plans (SRIP) and Student Reading Portfolios, which provide evidence of a student’s ability to read on grade level outside of the ACAP, to be easily accessible to classroom teachers, reading coaches, interventionists, administrators, and other educators supporting the student. This will help reduce paperwork related to the Act.

Each student will have a profile with all of their data available in one place. This data will be easily transferable between districts, which will help students stay on track regardless of transitions to different schools or districts. 

Use of the new dashboards will begin with reading and math camps this summer. Training will be rolled out to teachers and administrators soon. To see the presentation on the software shared with the Board, click here

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, 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.