WHAT WE'VE DONE
A+ was founded in 1991 to unite business, civic, government, and education leaders around one common goal: improving student opportunity and achievement for every child, no matter where they live. A+ worked relentlessly to become the foremost change agent in K-12 education by speaking out for progress in education and conducting town hall meetings across the state to discuss a blueprint for improving public education. When resulting legislation was defeated, A+ chose to stay the course.
27 years later, A+ continues with the promotion of policies but now also works directly with schools to demonstrate that with high expectations and support for teachers and students, more students can excel in education. Some highlights of our past accomplishments are below.
Founded by Leadership Alabama members, Caroline Novak and Bill Smith, A+ began to raise expectations for public education by advocating for research-based strategies, and what is best for students. Leading over 23,000 Alabamians in 22 town-hall meetings, A+ changed the conversation about public education in Alabama, and developed a blueprint for real reform.
Alabama Best Practices Center
Cathy Gassenheimer led the establishment of the Alabama Best Practices Center. During a time when professional development in Alabama was abysmal, A+ helped secure a significant funding increase for educators to receive relevant, effective, and timely professional development. Through this arm of A+, networks were formed in 71 districts to collaborate and learn together, and to expand best practices throughout the state. Because of their work in ABPC networks, educators are able to positively impact more than 400,000 students.
Alabama Reading Initiative
A+ developed the ARI with the State Department of Education, played a role in its adaption and expansion. Advocating successfully for funding to spread the initiative to every K-3 classroom by 2003, Alabama began to see dramatic gains on the National Assessment of Education Progress Report Card, and by 2007 lead the nation in gains in 4th-grade reading.
School Improvement & Talent Development
A+ was instrumental in establishing a system of school-based rewards for schools that outperform their peers. Working with other stakeholders to eliminate tenure protection for school principals, A+ dramatically modified the dismissal process, and created recommendations to alter the way Alabama recruits, prepares, evaluates and compensates educators & principals.
Access to High-quality Pre-k
To launch the Alabama School Readiness Alliance, A+ partnered with VOICES for Alabama's Children, Alabama Giving, and Smart Start, forming a task force that shared a commitment to high-quality pre-k for all 4 year olds. This work resulted in statewide support for Alabama's First Class Voluntary Pre-k, including a commitment from the Governor and State Legislature to incrementally increase funding over a 10-year span until reaching full-funding, $144 million. After approving $16.5 million more in 2016, state leaders are making good on their promise, and we are almost halfway to the goal ($64.5 million).
As a direct result of A+'s advocacy for investments in professional development, expansion of the Alabama Reading Initiative, and the Alabama Best Practices Center working hand-in-hand with education leaders, Alabama led the nation in gains in 4th-grade reading in 2007. By 2011, Alabama met the national average in 4th-grade reading for the first time in our state's history.
A+ College Ready
To dramatically increase the number of students challenging themselves in math, science and English Advanced Placement (AP) courses, earning college credit while in high school, and succeeding at the college level, A+ established A+ College Ready in 2008. Within the first year, all A+CR program schools saw a 95% increase in qualifying scores: 14 times the national average. As a result, Alabama ranks #1 nationally over its eight years in percent increase in AP math, science and English qualifying scores - which means more Alabama students are better prepared for success in college.
Graduation & Preparation
A+ worked closely with the State Department of Education to develop Plan 2020, a strategic plan to raise the bar for school performance in Alabama. The goal of Plan 2020 is to create an education system where all graduates are prepared to enter the workforce or attend college without the need for remediation. Plan 2020 includes proven strategies for school improvement that A+ has championed for more than 20 years, including: raising expectations, improving teaching and leading quality, providing support for students, and holding schools accountable for progress. Since its implementation, Alabama's graduation rate has increased from 72% to 86% in 2015, and college remediation rates are on a downward trend: from 34.4 to 30.4%.
A+ established a statewide coalition, Alabama GRIT (Graduate Ready. Impact Tomorrow.), consisting of educators, business leaders, parents, and the military community, to support Plan 2020's increased expectations for students and educators. College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS) for mathematics and English provide the foundation of Plan 2020, and raise the bar for students, challenging them to read more, write more, and think more critically. Today, Alabama GRIT includes more than 50 member organizations, with A+, the Business Council of Alabama, the Alabama Math, Science, Technology and Engineering Coalition, School Superintendents of Alabama, The Alabama Association of School Boards, and the Council of Leaders of Alabama Schools as lead partners.
Choice & Innovation
A+ assisted in pushing forward legislation to allow for public charter schools in Alabama based on best practices from around the country. Subsequently, A+ was nationally recognized for its efforts in achieving this first-ever law passed in our state. Two new charter schools have been approved to open in 2017.