Across the Board June 2024: Key Takeaways from the ALBOE Meeting & Work Session

Recapping important State Board of Education policy decisions for you

Here are our key takeaways from the June 13th State Board of Education meeting and work session – and what they mean for Alabama’s students. Governor Ivey was not in attendance for the meeting and Belinda McCrae was not in attendance for the work session.

Top 5 Takeaways

1. Reading Cut Scores

Alabama recently celebrated the real, hard fought progress made by Alabama’s third graders in reading. The results of the ACAP reading subset, which is the first step in determining if a third grader should be promoted to fourth grade, showed that 9% of third graders were not reading sufficiently to move on to 4th grade. That’s down from 17% of students in 2023. That is a big deal and shows that the hard work by educators and state leaders to implement the Alabama Literacy Act is paying off!

During the work session, Dr. Mackey discussed an article from Trisha Powell-Crain at this week that highlighted concerns about whether the cut score on the ACAP reading subtest truly reflected “grade level reading” (see his presentation here). The Literacy Act requires third grade students to “demonstrate sufficient reading skills for promotion to fourth grade.” Concerns have been raised about the framing that 91% of 3rd graders are “on or above grade level.” 

This mirrors concerns raised by some State Board members last year when the board adopted the cut score for the new test. 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 at the time that starting with a lower cut score in the first year where students will be retained would allow us to ensure 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 last year to bring the board data on implementation and reassess the cut score again in 2024. A+ agreed with this approach at the time and expects 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.

Today, Dr. Mackey recommitted to bring the board data in August for them to make a determination on raising the cut score for 2025, including summer reading camp attendance numbers, additional reading assessment results, how many portfolio assessments were used to promote kids, and final numbers on 3rd graders promoted.

2. Alabama Numeracy Act

The board announced its intent to adopt four new administrative code changes related to improving math achievement through the implementation of the Alabama Numeracy Act. The board is working to accomplish two main actions through these changes. 

First, the board must adopt a new administrative code outlining the four courses for the mathematics coaching endorsement that educator prep programs could offer. At last month’s work session, there was a robust discussion about the challenges of preparing teacher candidates to teach math effectively and the need to combine both content and pedagogy into the same courses for teacher candidates. 

Second, the board must adopt a new administrative code outlining the standards for the new Foundations of Mathematics test, which will be the new teacher certification assessment required by the Alabama Numeracy Act. This reflects a similar change required by the Alabama Literacy Act, which requires teacher candidates to pass the Foundations of Reading test to ensure they know how to teach reading. The Foundations of Reading test was found to be better aligned with the science of reading. While the Foundations of Reading test already exists, the Foundations of Math test will need to be created, and the ALSDE is working to develop an RFP to select a vendor to begin its development. Dr. Mackey mentioned that this new test would potentially launch in 2026, after completion of field testing.

The Alabama Numeracy Act requires the ALSDE to adopt these code changes by the end of June 2024, which is why the SBOE voted today on both an emergency and a permanent code change for these two areas. 

The emergency code changes allow work to start in two areas:

  • Colleges of Education can start building the coursework for a mathematics coaching endorsement. 
  • With the emergency approval of the standards for a new Foundations of Mathematics test, the ALSDE will be able to put out an RFP for a vendor to develop it. 

Today’s vote launches a 45-day public comment period for the permanent rule changes. The SBOE will vote in August to fully adopt both permanent code changes.  

3. Digital Literacy & Computer Science

The Alabama State Board announced its intent to adopt a code change that would make computer science a graduation requirement. Following a 45-day public comment period, the board will vote to fully adopt this change in August 2024. Since the passage of the Computer Science Law in 2019, Alabama has emerged as a national leader in computer science education. recognizes Alabama as one of 10 states meeting nine out of ten foundational requirements for computer science. 

The proposed code adds completion of an ALSDE-approved computer science course to the College and Career Readiness (CCR) Indicators. This aligns computer science with other CCR indicators, such as dual enrollment courses and AP exams. Starting in 2025-2026, earning at least one CCR indicator becomes a graduation requirement. Additionally, freshmen entering high school in 2028-29 must complete either a unit of computer science or a course with embedded computer science skills. Each computer science credit earned counts toward college and career readiness and fulfills specific credit requirements. To read the proposed code change, click here.

4. Social Studies Course of Study

Dr. Ron Snell, Superintendent of Geneva City Schools and Committee Chairman of the Social Studies Course of Study Committee, presented to the SBOE to give an update on the development of the 2024 Social Studies Course of Study. Dr. Coe mentioned that the current course of study has been in place for over 14 years. He also emphasized that the committee has continued to intentionally engage stakeholders across the states for their feedback on older standards and input on new standards. The first draft will come out in August, so Dr. Coe didn’t get into specific changes. The anticipated adoption is December 2024. You can find Dr. Coe’s presentation in the Work Session packet linked here.

5. Proposal for a Baldwin County Career Tech High School

Baldwin County has requested an innovation waiver through the Alabama Accountability Act to launch a new stand-alone career tech education (CTE) high school. If approved, Baldwin Prep Academy plans to open for the 2024-2025 school year, and over 700 students have pre-enrolled. Students will spend full school days at Baldwin Prep, instead of transferring to and from a “home” high school as is the typical case with CTE programs. ALSDE is working with Baldwin County on specific details.

If they decide to move forward, the State Board would announce their intent to adopt this code change in June, have a 45 day public comment period, and then vote to fully adopt it in August 2024.

To see the full June Board Meeting and Work Session agendas, click here and 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.