A Busy Week in Education Policy News
It has been a busy week (or two) in education policy, folks.
From movement on the charter school front, to budget presentations, to new bills poised to change the landscape of public education (again), there’s a lot to keep up with.
And oh yeah, the Alabama Legislature began its Regular Session.
Typically, I’d leave the week’s news to be shared through Storify (on the right-hand of this page below the Twitter feed). Because so much is going on, I’m hitting the high points, with links to articles I found helpful.
Charter School Update
The Alabama Public Charter School Commission met on Friday and approved an application for start-up charter schools to use. Technically, the commission is only responsible for creating a process for use by start-up charter schools. However, Athens City Superintendent Trey Holladay told me on Thursday (prior to Friday’s meeting) that his school district is waiting to see what the state commission does before it proceeds.
The deadline for a charter school operator to complete the application to operate a charter school for the 2017-2018 school year is August 1, 2016. In future years, the commission expects the deadline to be around the first of May.
Local boards of education have until March 1 to apply/register to become a charter authorizer. Here’s the official notice that went to local superintendents, complete with the forms local school officials need to complete. During the Friday meeting, Commission member Thomas Rains asked what local boards should expect after they submit the application to become an authorizer. Logan Searcy, of the Alabama State Department of Education’s Office of Public Charter Schools, said the department will review the application and determine if more information is needed. If needed, the board will be asked for more information. If not, State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice will approve the application.
A rubric is used to evaluate whether a board has the capacity and the plan to become an authorizer. 25 different areas are rated either well-developed, partially-developed or underdeveloped by ALSDE staff.
At this point, only Athens City and Birmingham City schools have been approved to be charter authorizers.
A meeting for February 16 at 10 a.m. of the Commission’s Contract Subcommittee has been set to continue work on the actual contract language between the commission and a start-up charter school operator. That meeting is open to the public.
Adjunct Teachers in the Classroom
The conversation continued around the state board of education’s resolution to allow the use of adjunct teachers in public schools. The Alabama Education Association expressed their concern about uncertified teachers being in classrooms, but state board of education members defended their action as necessary to fill specialty career tech positions.
Though I’m still researching whether other states allow the use of adjunct teachers, what I have found so far is that states do allow uncertified teachers to teach, but only if they are working toward certification. Alabama has processes in place to allow for temporary emergency certificates, but adjunct teachers will not be expected to seek certification.
At the December 2015 state board work session, Chief Academic Officer and Senior Deputy Superintendent Sherrill Parris presented the reasons why the ALSDE believes this is good for students. Parris said adjunct instructors in subjects such as engineering, chemistry, dance, and instrument-specific music would allow schools to hire instructors in areas they wouldn’t otherwise have resources to hire.
Adjunct instructors can only work half-time or less, must be under the supervision of a mentor who will be designated as the teacher of record, and cannot be employed in early childhood, elementary or special education. Adjunct instructors must still pass background checks.
Parris said the use and supervision of adjunct instructors will rest solely on local superintendents.
Here’s the presentation and discussion the December 2015 state board work session where the board discussed the resolution.
Here’s the actual video. Fast forward to 1 hour, 2 minutes into the video.
Here’s the discussion at the State Board of Education meeting in January. It starts at 11 minutes, 30 seconds into the video.
The feedback offered by board members was overwhelmingly positive. Board member Matthew Brown said he had spoken with a local superintendent in a rural school who appreciated the flexibility this resolution offered. Board member Mary Scott Hunter made clear that adjunct instructors should not be thought of as replacing certified instructors, but rather enhancing the offerings that local school districts can offer. Board Vice President Jeff Newman said he had received only positive feedback from superintendents in his area.
The resolution became effective upon passage.
RAISE Act Update – The Third Draft
Though Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) has yet to officially file the RAISE Act, the conversation about what it could include continues. A third draft of the bill, dated January 28, was published by the Montgomery Advertiser.
The second draft, from December, had multiple components, including tying teacher pay to student test scores.
While the third draft has dropped that component along with the Longitudinal Data System component, it does still address tenure reform and teacher evaluation.
It also creates two new ways teachers can earn more money. The Alabama Teacher Recruitment Fund provides for bonuses (in an amount up to a one-step increase on the State Minimum Salary schedule) for teachers working in hard-to-staff areas. The Alabama Teacher Mentor Program provides $1,000 to teachers serving as mentors to new teachers. Mentors must have at least 10 years of teaching experience and will be identified by the school principal.
It provides $10 million in funding for the Legislative School Recognition Program, which was created in 2012 but has never been funded. It relies in part on the A-F Grading system which was also created in 2012 but has not been implemented.
Read this for details of what is in this third draft.
Dr. Bice’s Budget Presentation to the Legislature
State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice made a presentation to the Alabama legislature on Monday, the day before the Regular Session began.
The ALSDE’s request was $334 million more than the FY16 request, with $192 million of that attached to the Foundation Program, and another $80 million relating to transportation.
Bice requested a 5% pay raise for school employees and funding to hire an additional 440 teachers to reduce class sizes.
The ALSDE filmed Bice’s presentation as well. Here’s Part 1. And here’s Part 2.
As part of his presentation, he shared a video of the ALSDE’s Innovation Schools Tour. [If you want to see the good stuff happening in Alabama’s K-12 public schools, it’s a must-see.]
The Governor’s Education Trust Fund Budget
Governor Robert Bentley’s recommended FY17 budget for the Education Trust Fund was introduced. Overall spending for K-12 education would increase to $4.4 billion, an increase of $200 million or 4.8% over FY16 amounts.
The full ETF budget recommendation includes $6.3 billion in spending, which is a $324 million or 5.4% increase.
The budget process is a long one, and many changes are typically made along the way.
A 2% pay raise for all public school employees is included in the proposed budget. The State Minimum Salary Schedule would look like this according to the proposed budget:
It also includes increased funding for classroom instructional support. Here’s that proposal:
The Longitudinal Data System
The Longitudinal Data System (LDS) bill, HB125, was filed this week, co-sponsored by Rep. Terri Collins (R-Decatur) and Rep. Alan Baker (R-Brewton).
A fully-developed LDS would link student data from pre-school through when students enter the workforce. The stated purpose of creating an LDS is:
The purpose of the system includes the generation of timely and accurate information about deidentified student performance that can be used to enhance the education system of the state and guide decision makers at all levels, to further facilitate the enhancement of college and career ready students through the linkage of performance data and workforce data.
The bill calls for the LDS to be fully operational by August 30, 2016. No mention of cost, nor was any fiscal note filed with the bill.
Alabama is one of three states in the country without an LDS. According to the Data Quality Campaign, 43 states link K–12 and postsecondary data systems “helping them evaluate whether students, schools, and districts are meeting college-readiness expectations”.
Previous efforts to create an LDS in Alabama have failed.
Alabama education officials failed in their initial attempt to create an LDS through the Race to the Top grants available under No Child Left Behind. State education officials did not pursue it further.
Establishing the P-20W data system or database was the Alabama Workforce Council’s Education and Industry Collaboration Committee’s sole recommendation in a January 2015 report to Bentley.
Bentley directed the AWC to seek federal grant money in an executive order last May. Alabama applied for the latest round federal education department grant money but was denied.
In late September, after learning federal funding was denied, a spokesperson for Governor Bentley said, “The Governor’s Office is evaluating our next steps and we are committed to seeing this data system implemented.”
A spokesperson for the AWC said “A longitudinal data system is the best way for business, industry, and education leaders to gain a complete understanding of the state’s education and workforce development programs as they seek to advance educational outcomes and grow their businesses and the state’s economy” and the AWC would continue to support state leaders as they determine how to pursue an LDS for Alabama.
The bill also requires the State Board of Education, the Board of Trustees of the Alabama Community College System, and the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, to jointly define remediation and the process of remediation higher education will use. The deadline to determine the definition and remediation process is December 31, 2016.
A public hearing has been called for Wednesday, February 10 at 1:30 p.m. at the Statehouse.
In Other News
A bill creating Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), HB84, was introduced by Rep. Ken Johnson (R-Moulton). Unlike last year’s bill (that went nowhere), this bill specifies ESAs can be used for students with disabilities, children of military families, and foster children. Stay tuned for more information about ESAs.
A public hearing on Sen. Rusty Glover’s (R-Semmes) bill to repeal Alabama’s use of Common Core State Standards was held on Wednesday. No vote was taken.
The second round of quarterly reports from four Scholarship Granting Organizations administering tax-credit scholarships were made public. According to those reports, for the quarter ending December 31, 2015, the total number of children attending nonpublic participating schools using tax-credit scholarships is 3690, an overall increase of 104 students. 869, or 23.5% of those students were zoned to attend a “failing” public school.
The new “failing public schools” list is expected to be made public on Monday, February 8, according to an ALSDE spokesperson. Changes to the Alabama Accountability Act last June included a change in the definition of a “failing” public school. A school is now labeled “failing” if it is (1) designated failing by the ALSDE, or (2) does not exclusively serve a special population and is listed in the bottom 6% of public schools based on the state standardized assessments in reading and math for the previous year. Previously, that determination was made based on a school’s previous six years of test data, where three of the previous six years landed the school in the bottom 6%.
Here’s Montgomery Advertiser‘s Brian Lyman’s coverage of the Legislative Fiscal Office’s (LFO) presentation to the legislature on Monday: Education Budget Up $382M; General Fund Down Again. Here’s the LFO’s actual presentation.
Here’s a helpful post from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama containing resources to help you understand Alabama’s budgeting process.