State Board of Education Work Session – May 24, 2012

Here is the full video from ustream.

The meeting started around 10:45 a.m.  All board members were present with the exception of Betty Peters.  Here is the agenda.  Item 4, the Local School Board Governance item, was removed because the “Department of Justice hasn’t approved it yet”.  An item regarding setting emergency rules for the physical testing of school bus drivers was added.

Four-Year Cohort 2011 Graduation Rate

The “Four-Year Cohort 2011 Graduation Rate” (a.k.a., the dropout rate) was first up.  Rules changed a few years ago that mandated each state calculate the graduation rate in the same way:  the percentage of students who graduated from high school four years after entering the ninth grade.  The details of the calculation are here.  This is the first time this calculation has been completed, and is based on the 2011 graduating class in Alabama.  

Each of Alabama’s 132 school districts was given instruction via webinars about how to calculate their own graduation rate.  Much support was given to the districts from the ALSDE.

There are two categories of students:  Graduates and Non-Graduates.

Further, under “Non-Graduates”, there are four considerations:

  • Still enrolled
  • Withdrawn, no-show, missing records, other
  • Completers – students that obtained a GED or a Special Education Certificate (these students are not considered “graduates” for purposes of this calculation)
  • Dropouts

Next year, a 5-year cohort rate will be provided if approved by the U.S. Department of Education (there is no data for 5-year graduates in this year’s data).

So after all of the data was entered and crunched, it turns out that 72% of the class of 2011 graduated in four years.

The breakdown of graduates by school was released today.  Go to the ALSDE’s main accountability page.  Select the 2011-2012 school year.  The second drop-down box allows you to choose one of two reports.  The first listed report is by school and shows only the calculated graduation rate.  The second report is by system and breaks down the population by the categories listed above.

Much was said about the added accountability for schools to track students down and to own whether the student graduates on time or drops out.  Official transfers out of a school or out of state are not included in a school’s graduation rate.

This rate cannot be compared to any prior graduation rate due to the way it was calculated.  Dr. Bice made a point to say that 72% was higher than they expected when they first looked at the way this would be calculated.  Bice indicated that this number becomes the baseline upon which Alabama’s schools can improve.

When compared to other states, Alabama’s 72% is higher than Mississippi (62%), New Mexico (63%), Oregon (66%), Georgia (67%), and Louisiana (71%).  Virginia had the highest rate (87%), followed by Massachusetts (81%), Pennsylvania (79%) and North Carolina (78%).  A full 50-state listing was not provided.

Board member Mrs. Ella Bell asked Bice about what she called the “Drop Back In Academies“, where students who have previously dropped out come back to earn their diplomas and whether their graduations count in this calculation.  Bice responded no, their participation and graduation isn’t currently in the calculation.

Board member Mrs. Mary Scott Hunter commented that now that they know which schools have high graduation rates with at-risk students, others can learn from their best practices.

Mrs. Ella Bell commented that after she visited high-performing, high-poverty schools in Mobile, that no one would be able to tell her what children can’t do.  She stated how impressed she was with what was happening in these schools and how that was the model that she wanted to see replicated across the state.


LEADAlabama is the principal, assistant principal and central office administrator evaluation that begins next school year.  EDUCATEAlabama is the teacher evaluation version.  Dr. John Bell presented this topic to the board.

The entire process is online.

The process begins with a self-assessment by the instructional leader.  There are 23 indicators (as opposed to 39 for teachers) using five levels of development (pre-service and beginning, emerging, applying, integrating, innovating).  The results are used to “focus a conversation with the evaluator about professional practice and leadership skills and practices needing improvement”.

Collaborative dialogue begins to “inform development of the Professional Learning Plan” (PLP).

The PLP is developed to target professional development for the leader.

Evidence is added throughout the year to provide documentation of “active work towards leadership development”.

360-degree assessment…..THIS is innovative and promises to be eye-opening for all involved.  This is a 72-item survey given to ALL faculty members under the principal’s leadership about the principal’s leadership.  One-third of principals will be evaluated each year for three years.  This is due to the cost of the survey and provision of feedback.  Data are then reported to the principal and superintendent “to inform areas of leadership needing improvement and leadership strengths on which to build”.  It also compares the principal’s leadership with other principals across the nation in schools with like demographics and similar grade configurations.  Wow.

It was noted that Bice has access to all LEADAlabama and EDUCATEAlabama data.  From his desk.

LEADAlabama and EDUCATEAlabama are considered formative assessments, as they assess growth and lead towards further growth and improvement.

Summative assessment (think test scores, etc.) may be added to LEADAlabama in the future.  Mrs. Ella Bell asked where the tie-in to student achievement will be.  Bice indicated that as they continue the overhaul of Alabama’s assessment and accountability system, they do anticipate adding summative assessments to LEADAlabama and EDUCATEAlabama, but that he wanted to be certain that the assessments that will be used are meaningful.

The key to success is implementing this properly and assuring that if leaders identify areas in which they need support, that professional development opportunities are made available to support them.

The process must be started at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year and not a few months into the year.

Mrs. Ella Bell commented about George Hall Elementary and all that they have accomplished.  Mrs. Bell would like the Torchbearer Model (of which George Hall is a Torchbearer) to be replicated, as she states it is the “plan that brings about super-effectiveness”.

Bice stated that the schools that are Torchbearers “leave nothing about learning and teaching to chance”.

Bice also stated that the state’s teacher-preparation programs will be tied in to EDUCATEAlabama and LEADAlabama in a way that will allow them to strengthen their programs based on feedback received from teachers and leaders about areas in which they would like further development.

Career Tech Changes

The formality of introducing the changes to the Alabama Administrative Code regarding previously discussed changes to the Career and Technical program.

Testing of School Bus Drivers

General Counsel Larry Craven stated that they are working on creating emergency regulations to implement the Lieutenant Dexter Holcomb Act passed in the regular session of the legislature.  Holcomb was an Oxford police lieutenant killed in 2007 due to a school bus driver passing out while driving her school bus, according to Craven.

49 states total (counting Alabama) have laws mandating a physical examination for school bus drivers. Craven indicated they had been working a long time to get this law passed.

Upon initial employment, the school bus driver must have a physical examination, at his/her own expense, to ensure the driver does not have a physical condition that could put him/her at risk of losing control of the bus while driving.

The physical examination must be repeated every two years.

Current school bus drivers must have the physical examination as well.

This law takes the burden off of school districts in determining whether a driver’s physical condition is liable to cause problems while driving, in that it requires the driver’s physician to certify that the driver’s condition (if he has one) will not affect his ability to driver the school bus.

Background checks and random drug testing of bus drivers will continue.

FY13 Budget

The FY13 (October 1, 2012, to September 30, 2013) budget is final.  Bice stated that it was “nothing short of a miracle”.  He stated that Senator Pittman and Representative Love were exceptional in their cooperation and consideration of the ALSDE’s needs.  Bice gave tremendous credit to Tracey Meyer, the ALSDE’s legislative liaison, who was very helpful throughout the session and communicated frequently with Bice and the board during the session to help them understand what was happening in the session.

Due to a reduction in students, 200 fewer teacher units will be funded.  Bice stated that in FY12, Average Daily Membership (ADM, the measure of how many students are in Alabama’s schools) was 744,000, and for FY13, the number used is 741,000 students.

Bice mentioned that Senator Jabo Waggoner was instrumental in ensuring that annual bonuses for National Board Certified Teachers were not only reinstated at the $5,000 for the coming year, but that the $1,500 difference in what they received this year ($3,500) and the $5,000 for next year would be given to those teachers retroactively.

Board member Mrs. Hunter indicated her concern over the shifting of monies from the Education Trust Fund (ETF) to the General Fund (GF).  Bice stated that it ended up being a wash because the monies that were transferred to the GF were transferred along with a couple of agencies that will now be funded under the GF.  He stated that those agencies were the CHIP program (children’s health insurance) and part of the Department of Youth Services.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:10 p.m. to allow board members to receive further training on their digital devices.

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