When you hear all of the changes the state board of education is entertaining, your head will start spinning. It all sounds so good while you’re sitting there listening to it. It’s obvious that Children have taken center stage under Dr. Tommy Bice’s superintendency. How he proposes to greatly improve public education for our children is remarkable. Bice doesn’t propose to reinvent the wheel; rather he appears to draw on models either already in existence or on laws that are already on the books that haven’t been enforced. Today’s post contains two versions: The Short Version and The Details.
The State Board of Education met on Thursday, September 27. The meeting began around 10:40 a.m. All board members were present except for Mrs. Betty Peters.
Here’s the agenda. That first item, the “Preliminary Policy, Legislative, and Budget Priorities FY14“, is loaded with ideas for reforms for public education in Alabama. Most of the space here will be dedicated to that discussion. Also discussed was the language that needs to be included in the Code of Alabama to implement the School Board Governance Improvement Act of 2012. After lunch, the board learned about the strategies the Office of Learning Support intends to utilize to support Plan 2020. A draft of the Substitute Teacher Handbook was shared with the board at the end of the meeting. (Substitute Teacher Handbook! What a great idea!)
The Short Version – The Most Important Points (from where I sat)
Note: The links/bookmarks only work when you click on the heading and get to the full post. The links don’t work in the homepage version. Click “continue reading” to get to the full post or just click on the headline “Funding and Budget Change Proposals”
- Preliminary Look at the FY14 Budget (here, too)
- An additional $400 million in revenue is expected to be available for the FY14 budget
- Officials have included monies for Technology, Library Enhancement, Professional Development and Common Purchases in the FY14 draft budget (all of those categories have been zeroed out for a few years now).
- Officials plan to adopt AdvancEd standards for Assistant Principals, which will increase state funding for Assistant Principals by 119.5 positions for FY14
- Library support positions will be decreased by 346.75 positions in the FY14 budget.
- Details of how the Alabama Administrative Code will be updated to reflect the needed changes due to the implementation of the School Board Governance Improvement Act were presented.
- Policy, Legislative and Budget Priorities include:
- Returning Other Current Expense to the 2008 level.
- Returning divisors (that determine class size) to their original level over the next few years
- Increasing transportation funding.
- Increasing the amount for textbooks to $75 per student in the FY14 draft budget.
- Granting a cost of living salary increase to employees.
- Reform Initiativesinclude:
- The Guaranteed Graduate concept, meaning that every student who graduates will be prepared to either start a career or attend and succeed in college.
- Better supporting teachers through a number of methods including scholarship offers for the best recruits, implementing a mentoring program for first- and second-year teachers, and opening up pathways for teachers to rise to higher levels within their profession, not only through becoming an administrator.
- Issue $30 million in bonds for Career and Technical Education (CTE) to improve offerings in schools willing to apply for monies.
- Implement a state recognition, accountability and support program for schools and school systems in accordance with recently passed legislation.
- Form a coalition of state agencies to support children and families.
- Provide $5 million in funding for Arts Education through an application process for school systems.
- Fund Alabama’s nationally-recognized PreK program to enable more voluntary participation.
- Continue to explore more equitable ways to distribute state funding based on need.
That was all before lunch. After lunch:
- Strategies to support school systems increasing graduation rates were discussed. The goal is to raise the graduation rate from 72% to 90.7% in eight years (by 2020). Those strategies include:
- October is Parent Visitation Month (what’s your school district doing to participate?)
- A Substitute Teacher Handbook was distributed in draft form.
- Bice stated that he has done some research into Channel One and has asked each of the 29 school districts utilizing Channel One to determine whether it has any instructional value.
Back to Top
Like I said, there was a lot on the table. Now for The Details.
Here’s the presentation on budgetary priorities. Here’s the presentation on Supporting Plan 2020. Here’s the detail of the legislative, budgetary and policy priorities for FY14 (October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014).
Dr. Craig Pouncey, Chief of Staff, Policy and Budget, presented from this PowerPoint. This is a first look at what the FY14 budget might look like. Looking first at revenues, Pouncey estimated that there could be as much as $400 million in new revenue in the Education Trust Fund (ETF) budget. The breakdown is below.
Pouncey then stated that he believes that the split between K-12 and higher education should reflect the actual populations: 78.59% for K-12, 12.28% 4-year colleges and universities and 9.13% Post-secondary. The split for FY13 looks like this: 72.32% for K-12, and 27.68% for Higher Ed. (By the way, not all of the money from the ETF goes only to schools. Here’s a list of the agencies that receive funds from the FY13 ETF budget.)
Pouncey then went on to share his thoughts that Alabama must look at a different method of funding schools, basing the funding, in part, on need. He did not elaborate, except to say that some school systems have lots of local support, while others have none and may never have any. He believes that the state has an obligation to fund those systems better.
State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice spoke to the next part of the presentation, opening by saying “Typically we start with inside this building, but we’re gonna start outside the building” with this budget discussion. He stated that the state department of education is there to serve and support the school districts, and that’s where they started the discussion.
This page from the presentation sums it all up:
OCE is used for salaries for support employees, secretaries, power bills, etc. Funding should be returned to 2008 budget level. Systems must use local money to fill in the gaps in OCE funding versus expenditures.
Divisors were increased (meaning student-teacher ratios went higher on the student side) and Bice wants to see them returned to their original level.
Board member Dr. Charles Elliott stated that he has heard much talk among state legislators that “class size doesn’t matter”. Elliott asked Bice to provide the board with the latest research on class sizes so that board members can have informed discussions with the public and with legislators. Bice stated that while he believes that class size isn’t THE variable that makes a difference, he does believe it makes a difference in certain cases. Bice will substantiate where class size matters and will provide that information to the board.
There was brief discussion among the board about the difference that divisors can make for students and teachers. Bice stated that the divisors are important because when local funding isn’t available to make up for the loss of state funds, it “widens the gap between the haves and have-nots”. Bice stated that the phase-in would allow them to recover 458.9 teachers of the 1376 teachers that were lost.
Regarding transportation, $14 million has been added to the budget, which comes to $7,957 per school bus.
Bice advocated for a cost of living salary increase, noting that the state salary schedule has not been increased in 4 years. For every 1% raise, the cost is estimated to be $35 million.
Board member Randy McKinney, who in a September 13 board meeting raised questions about the efficacy of reducing the number of school days in a year in order to meet the requirements under the Flexible School Calendar Act, clarified his concern, stating that because the Foundation Program calculates the school districts’ budgets on 187 days, those districts who have less than that are in essence giving their employees a “back door raise”. He stated that his concern is about “students in classrooms”, and that adding minutes to a day’s schedule doesn’t afford the 180 separate face-to-face opportunities the full calendar year affords.
Bice stated that the legislation stated that if the number of days was affected, meaning that districts chose to utilize the 1080-hour equivalent instead of 180 days, that there would be no change to employees’ pay. Pouncey added that districts didn’t make adjustments on the teacher side, but some did make adjustments in the support employees’ pay.
Board member Mary Scott Hunter stated that while she is for a cost-of-living increase, she wants to ensure that districts pay well to attract good workers. She wants to see teaching be a more desirable profession and believes that higher pay will attract better employees.
Board Vice President Stephanie Bell asked Bice about tying teachers’ pay to achievement and whether that discussion was being had.
Bice stated that yes, they are having that discussion, but that he believes that the day you hire a teacher, you are paying them for their performance. The research on merit pay for teachers is mixed, and he is concerned about causing divisions among teachers working in the same building, believing that the collective effort of all in the school is extremely important. He stated that there are pay-for-performance models based on growth to make up for the differences in school readiness when children enter school. Back to Top
This is the “wow” stuff, in my opinion. Here’s the detail of the legislative, budgetary and policy priorities for FY14 that go along with this part of the presentation.
Guaranteed Graduate simply means that when a student graduates from high school, he will be ready for the next level, either beginning a career or attending college. Bice said that this board is the first to have a shared definition among PK-20 of what a graduate should be prepared to do upon graduation. He believes that PK-20 needs to be “joined at the hip”. Bice hopes the Governor will lead the effort.
Bice wants to remove the need for remediation. (Here is a report from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE) indicating the number of students from each Alabama high school that required remedial courses in their freshman year of college. ACHE has a page on their site devoted to remediation.)
Hunter commented that the rates are terrible, and Bice stated that they “own it”. He added that part of the problem is that each higher education institution has its own definition of remediation, adding to the difficulty of fixing the problem. He hopes that PK-20 can move to a common definition of readiness. No movement of funds is necessary to accomplish this. Bice said this is a Policy effort. Back to Top
Comprehensive Human Capital Plan
Bice has four separate initiatives as part of the Comprehensive Human Capital Plan, which he intends to fund with $10 million repurposed from :
- Teach for Alabama
- Teach for Alabama Higher Education Connection
- Induction and Mentoring Program for Entering Teachers
- Professional Pathways for Teachers
Bice began this section by emphasizing that personnel is typically 80% to 85% of a school district’s budget, yet no money….no funds…..are expended on professional development. So the state takes its biggest monetary investment, teachers, and spends “zero dollars” to improve them. He believes that the Alabama Reading Initiative’s model of professional development is a good one and could be modeled.
Teach for Alabama is basically a scholarship program, looking for prospective teachers in high school and college and awarding a $5,000 grant per year to cover tuition in a teacher prep program, with recipients agreeing to teach for four years in a school in greatest need of improvement. Can this happen tomorrow? Please?
Teach for Alabama Higher Education Connection is an extension/partnership of the Teach for Alabama recruiting program whereby teacher prep programs agree to prepare teachers according to clinical models that place equal emphasis on philosophy and practice. It would be within these programs that Teach for Alabama grant recipients would be trained. Tomorrow, please? Next week?
The Induction and Mentoring Program for all first- and second-year teachers sounds long overdue. It would pair entering teachers with masters teachers and leaders with a proven record of success in student learning gains. The state will develop the model framework. Bice stated that those systems with local money can provide these types of opportunities for teachers, but for those without local funding, their teachers have few opportunities to improve their professional practice of teaching.
Professional Pathways for Teachers will provide opportunities for teachers to want to advance in their career but do not desire to move into traditional administrative roles. Bice calls them “teacher leaders” and states they would spend a portion of their day supporting the teaching and learning process and ongoing professional development of teachers nad leaders within their school and/or school system.
Bice proposes to “repurpose” $10 million from other areas that no longer need to be funded. He assured Hunter that while they will take it from other places, they won’t “lose anything”. Back to Top
Career and Technical Education (CTE) Bond Issue
Bice proposed a $30 million bond issue to improve CTE. The funds generated from the bond issue would be distributed through an application process. Only those systems that were coordinating and aligned their offerings with the local Workforce Development Council and institutes of higher education would be eligible to apply for funds. Additionally, those programs would have to “lead to a recognized state, regional, or national industry credential”. The State Board of Education would have the final say in awarding the funds. Back to Top
State Recognition, Accountability, and Support Program for Schools and School Systems
Bice began this discussion by telling the board that they have more authority than they think they do. He believes that the board should have more responsibility to children in underperforming schools. He used the term”receivership” to describe how the state board could intervene in underperforming schools and districts.
He went on to say that the State Board of Education is “ultimately responsible for the education of all children in Alabama”. Bice wants to repurpose $5 million from the High Hopes program (that was connected to the Alabama High School Graduation Exam, but that exam will no longer be used as of 2014) to fund the necessary technology and intervention costs associated with implementing these accountability provisions.
Bell asked how local superintendents and local school systems felt about the state board intervening. Bice responded that there are probably five or less systems that are in the extreme category that currently might qualify for this type of intervention. He added that as far as intervention goes, the reaction depends on the district. He mentioned that just as they have seen different responses among current intervention efforts (presumably Midfield and Birmingham….their boards’ reactions were on opposite ends of the spectrum), he expects different reactions under this initiative.
Bice stated that if there are 10,000 students in underperforming schools, the state department of education “can’t just sit around and wait”. He added that “the law has been on the books since 1995” but that they just haven’t used it. (Say what? Why not?) One of the sections in the Code of Alabama to which Bice is referring is Section 16-6B-3, which states:
The State Board of Education’s plan for an assistance program shall consist of the following components:
(1) The faculty and staff of each school in need of assistance shall engage in a self-study to examine the problem of low achievement within that school and shall develop steps which may be taken to improve student achievement. Parents of students in the schools shall be consulted as part of this self-study.
(2) If, after two years, student achievement has not improved, the State Superintendent of Education shall designate a team of practicing professionals to visit the school, conduct a study, consult with parents of students in the school, analyze causes of poor student achievement, and make specific recommendations which shall become a part of a school improvement plan for the succeeding year.
(3) As a final step, when insufficient or no improvement as determined by the State Board of Education is evident from the implementation of steps one and two above, the State Superintendent of Education is required to intervene and to appoint a person or persons to run the day-to-day operation of the school. In considering intervention, the State Board of Education shall consider factors which may have affected the prescribed norm test score. Factors shall include drop-out rates, attendance rates, special education enrollment, and any other data necessary to properly interpret student achievement in each school.
(c) School system strategy. The State Board of Education shall develop an assistance program for a local board of education identified as being in need of assistance. A local board of education in need of assistance shall mean any local board of education which has a majority of its schools, or a majority of the students in a system, in which the students are scoring one or more grade levels below the prescribed norm.
The State Board of Education shall require a local board of education in need of assistance to do the following:
(1) The local board of education and the local superintendent with input from other administrators, teachers, staff, parents of students in the school, and the local community shall engage in a self-study to examine the problem of low achievement within the system and to develop steps which may be taken to improve student achievement.
(2) If, after two years, student achievement has not improved, the state superintendent shall develop a system-wide school improvement plan in consultation with teachers, parents of students in the school, and the local community. This school improvement plan shall become a part of the local board of education’s program and financial operations for the succeeding year.
(3) If, after the implementation of the school improvement plan, student achievement has not sufficiently improved, relative to the previous year’s performance, the State Board of Education shall require the State Superintendent of Education to intervene and assume the direct management and day-to-day operation of the local board of education for such period of time as may be necessary for student achievement to improve. In considering intervention, the State Board of Education shall consider factors which may have affected the prescribed norm test score. Factors shall include drop-out rates, attendance rates, special education enrollment, and any other data necessary to properly interpret student achievement in each system.
(d) It is the intent of the Legislature that intervention is not to occur when a school or school system scores below the prescribed average. Intervention by the State Board of Education is to occur only after the three-year period provided in this chapter during which a school or school system fails to show improvement. So long as improvement is being shown, the State Board of Education shall not intervene but shall continue to encourage the school to improve.
So, the state is required to intervene after a third year of a school system failing to show improvement? Why, then, did it take seven years before Lee High School in Montgomery was finally forced into restructing? To hear Bice speak, it is obvious that he believes the ALSDE needs to take a more active role in supporting school systems and holding them accountable for providing students the education they need to be successful beyond high school.
Hunter asked why additional legislation would be needed if it’s already in the Code. Bice stated that there is authority for the state board to a point, but the Code needs to provide for budgetary resources to support turnaround strategies.
Pouncey added that the ALSDE has recognized that when action needed to be taken that their hands were somewhat tied to do what was necessary, and the legislation will allow them to overcome those limitations. Bice added that “this is a responsibility thing, not an authority thing” and that the ALSDE is the agent that carries out the State Board of Education’s responsibility for education in the state of Alabama. Back to Top
Healthy Kids and Family Coalition
This will be modeled after the Comprehensive Learning Support System from UCLA. This would be a coalition of state agencies that “provide critical services to children and their families”. Bice stated that he would like to see the state board take the lead in this initiative, and mentioned coalition among the various state agencies in those “white buildings” in Montgomery. He intends to utilize $5 million that will be repurposed from High Hopes. Back to Top
Bice believes that $5 million in new state funding should be made available to school systems through an application process. The application would be rated based on “the level of involvement of local, regional, state, and national arts organizations alignment and articulation with community colleges and institutions of higher education”. This would force partnerships and allow for shared responsibility, according to Bice. Additionally, the board would pass a resolution requiring “all teacher preparation programs to include an arts integration component to their curriculum”. Back to Top
Bice hopes to utilize $5 million in new state funding to support pre-K initiatives. Note that pre-K is currently not a part of the ALSDE’s responsibility, but the board discussed the possibility that maybe it should be. Bice hopes to partner with the Alabama School Readiness Alliance and other organizations to leverage funds to expand Alabama’s nationally-recognized preschool program. Back to Top
This one promises to be a conversation-starter. Bice stated that the state board has established a Study Commission to look at alternate ways of funding school systems with state money. He stated that they are looking closely at Maryland’s model, known as Bridge to Excellence, which awards additional funds to school systems differently based on various factors that place students at risk. Bice’s proposal states that the funding formula being studied will be “equalized/adjusted to provide additional funding for children living in poverty, the number of children with limited English proficiency, and special education students above and beyond the allocation provided to all systems”. He also proposes to allow more flexibility for local systems to apply monies where they are needed.
Bice stated that the ALSDE is charged with providing for the greater good; they are a statewide education agency.
Board member Dr. Charles Elliott stated that the “pie is too small”. Board member Mrs. Ella Bell stated that it is difficult to ask for more taxes from an impoverished county. Back to Top
Overall, Bice is preliminarily requesting a $10 million increase for AMSTI (Alabama Math Science Technology Initiative), $5 million for ACCESS (the distance learning initiative), a $3 million increase to expand AP (Advanced Placement testing), and a $3 million increase in CTE (Career and Technical Education). [Gotta learn those acronyms…]
Elliott then stated concerns that he has about the ACCESS program. He said that he has schools in his district that don’t have facilitators. Facilitators are needed to oversee the students in the classroom participating in the ACCESS learning. He stated that the schools that need it the most are the ones that have the fewest personnel.
Elliott also expressed concerns about schools having “dinosaurs for computers”. He is concerned that the newly-offered formative assessments (as of this school year) won’t work with computers in schools. Schools in his district are looking at other models of virtual schools, leaving ACCESS behind, because of limitations in personnel.
Pouncey stated that the state has begun to replace outdated ACCESS equipment.
Mrs. Stephanie Bell asked if ACCESS could be replaced by virtual schools. Bice said that the state already has all of the course content and could “create a virtual high school tomorrow”. Bice then asked Dr. Melinda Maddox, Assistant Superintendent over Research, Information and Data Services, to look into what it would take for the state to get into the virtual school arena.
Chief of Staff, Policy and Budget, Dr. Craig Pouncey, then took a look at the FY14 preliminary budget that was presented (in the image below).
Pay particular attention to the Classroom Instructional Support numbers (in the red triangle). You will see that Pouncey and Bice are proposing to add $200 per unit for Technology, $200 per unit for Library Enhancement, $200 per unit for Professional Development, and $200 per unit for Common Purchases. Those are items that used to be funded many years ago, but were zeroed out along the way. He is also proposing Textbook funding be increased to $75 per student. He noted the state will continue to look at electronic content. (Just for comparison: Textbook funding for FY13 is $31.35 per student, and the FY12 amount was $15.88 per student.) All of those proposals add up to $140 million in increased expenditures to the state’s Foundation Program budget for FY14.
You will also notice that the number of library position being cut by 346.75, while Assistant Principals will increase by 119.50 units. This is due to the state’s desire to adopt the new AdvancEd standards for Assistant Principals (which I am unable to locate). This allows for the state to fund more Assistant Principals, but also reduces the number of library positions per school. Pouncey indicated that the librarians will still be funded, that the reduction in units affects support personnel within libraries. Back to Top
School Board Governance
Changes to the Alabama Administrative Code that must be made to comply with the School Board Governance Improvement Act of 2012, were introduced. Section 290-1-5 will be created to house the administrative rules regarding the Act. The details are here.
Each local Board of Education must adopt a board member Code of Conduct by April 1, 2013. The state will provide a Model Code of Conduct to boards by January 1, 2013.
The Act established qualifications for school board members, including that a member must have either a high school diploma or GED, and that the board member must live in the district they represent.
Additionally, there is a “Certificate of Affirmation of School Board Member” that affirms a board member’s duties.
The board resumed their work session around 1:10 p.m. The “Overview of Strategic Planning Process to Support Alabama Plan 2020” was presented. The first part, presented by Dr. Tony Thacker, Research and Development, was basically a review of how the ALSDE determined which activities they would pursue to reach goals of the Plan.
Dr. Linda Felton-Smith, Office of Learning Support, spoke to how the ALSDE will support raising graduation rates from 72% to 90.7% over the next 8 years. Six strategies will be implemented:
- Credit recovery
- Graduation indicators, including tracking absences and progress
- Utilizing counselors
- Comprehensive state monitoring
- “eCip” – Electronic Continuous Improvement Plan
- Ensuring students have effective preschool available to ensure school readiness
Credit recovery was discussed earlier in the work session (and will be brought up again in a moment).
Tracking absences through iNow generated a bit of discussion. Board member Randy McKinney asked at what grade level absences are truly tracked. Felton-Smith stated in the first, second, and third grades, if chronic absences are noted, there will be some intervention.
Bice stated that how absences are handled now is a problem, referring to the “momma note” that is accepted as an excuse. The system now can identify patterns to allow parent meetings and counseling to start early.
McKinney questioned what else iNow can track. Bice responded that it has three areas that can be customized to allow “flagging” for students: number of absences, number of discipline referrals, and academic red flags.
Thacker stated that tracking absences is a very important piece of the puzzle. A Baltimore study showed that potential dropouts have more absences than non-dropouts. And the problem gets worse as the child ages.
Elliott reminded the board that absences are often a cry for help. Bice stated that it is “regretful” that the system that is in place now punishes the child for something over which the child has no control: getting himself to school. Bice stated that the wraparound services (Healthy Kids reform initiative) are crucial in order to make this work.
Felton-Smith clarified that missing school then begins the cycle of failing classwork because you’ve missed school. Bice stated the goal is to break the cycle. Back to Top
Felton-Smith then stated that counseling and counselors are a key part of this effort to ensure that counselors are not the only ones counseling, but that guidance is seen as an effort across schools. School health is a priority as well for reasons already mentioned.
Comprehensive state monitoring is conducted once every three years in each school district. The eCip is required for all Title I schools. And PreK will be discussed again in a few moments.
ACCESS Credit Recovery
There was discussion earlier about credit recovery. Felton-Smith acknowledged that some of the equipment is old and the state is working to help districts replace their older equipment, but it’s not being replaced as quickly as it should be.
Felton-Smith indicated they will begin a conversation about virtual schools with her Technology Working Group.
She discussed the reasons for utilizing ACCESS in credit recovery: to provide equity of access to high-school coursework, the desire to keep students with their “cohort” (which means they don’t want students to have to repeat a grade), and to provide flexibility in scheduling for students.
As Felton-Smith went through the chain, she noted the importance of the Facilitators, who are the teachers on the ground, in the room with the students who are learning through ACCESS. The facilitators keep students on track. Bice asked her to make note of concerns raised earlier that because of decreased state funding, the facilitators are often the first employees to go, and they need to ensure there is state funding for those facilitators.
Pouncey suggested that school districts pay their certified teachers an hourly rate for their planning period to facilitate ACCESS classes. Felton-Smith wants to ensure that labs are being utilized to their fullest extent.
Thacker noted that these are the types of discussions that need to be had as the state looks at “choke points” that keep state initiatives from being implemented in local districts. He admitted that type of analysis has not traditionally been done but is now being done and will continue to be done. Back to Top
Look at the following image for the next part of the discussion. It deals with raising the graduation rate from 72% to 90.7% over the next 8 years and how each of these six strategies proportionally will get us there.
The various colors indicate which strategy will have what type of impact. The number indicates the number of students the strategy will keep on target. Felton-Smith stated that the Graduation and Absence Tracking System will keep the most students on target. PreK will have the least impact on keeping students on target.
They do not have the data to determine the type of impact PreK has had on current graduates because those on track to graduate in 2020 are currently in the fifth grade. There is an effort to go back and collect data on the state’s current fifth graders to determine how many attended preschool.
Thacker stated that preschool is a “persistence” issue. A study showed that children learn 89% to 96% of the words that they use are learned from their parents. Further, small children hear about 616 words per hour in families in poverty, whereas children from families in an average working class family hear about 1,200 words per hour. This adds up to 30 million words fewer for children in poverty by the time they are 3 years old. Vocabulary and language acquisition are primary differentiators for children as they enter school.
Vice President Stephanie Bell asked whether there is monitoring in place to ensure that credit recovery is quality, as she has heard that there are problems in South Alabama in board member Betty Peters’ district where 2-year college professors believe the credit recovery programs are not doing what they were supposed to be doing for students. Bice believes that the monitoring that is being instituted will alleviate that concern. Felton-Smith stated that if the credit recovery is being provided through ACCESS, she is confident students are learning what they need to learn.
Board member Mary Scott Hunter stated that she wished the legislators could see the difference in her youngest son’s abilities as compared to her two older children, as the youngest son attends a preschool, where her older two attended a daycare program. She believes there is a tremendous difference in his abilities due mostly to the teaching at the preschool.
The Office of School Readiness (OSR) created the First Class standards are being utilized in the OSR programs. Alabama’s standards have been recognized nationally for their rigor.
Stephanie Bell asked whether PreK should be under the direction of the ALSDE. Bice said that is a conversation that is ongoing.
Felton-Smith mentioned that the Healthy Kids initiative is underway and dates and timelines are being set with Dr. Rhonda Waltman’s guidance. Waltman has worked with the UCLA program and speaks nationwide on the subject.
Board member Gary Warren spoke about his concern about the credit recovery program and the inconsistencies among school districts. He mentioned a circumstance where a principal told students “say you’re in my office for three days, and you’ll be okay”. [Just last week, the Montgomery Advertiser broke a story revealing Warren’s concerns about credit recovery are valid.]
Warren pointed out the weaknesses are at the local level, and they involve the people that are supposed to implement the policies and procedures.
Regarding comprehensive monitoring, Warren stated: “If we tell folks that we’re gonna monitor them 6 months to a year ahead, it’s pretty easy to be ready.”
Regarding web-based learning, Warren told the board that one of the districts in his area placed the weakest technology person in charge of the lab. He told Bice that these initiatives are great, but the personnel on the ground need to be doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
Bice stated that framework will be utilized at the state and at the local level to ensure appropriate activities are taking place at the local level. “There’s variability all over the place,” he said. Further, he wants to be certain that districts have the resources to implement these programs properly.
Moving on, Felton-Smith stated that they are working to develop a state-level Counseling Academy. They don’t want counselors to do administrative things, but rather do real counseling. She believes that training Counselors properly and outlining state expectations for Counselors in schools will help get counselors back to doing the job counselors were intended to perform.
The remaining items on the agenda were routine, with the exception of the Substitute Teacher Handbook. The Handbook was put together to support the individuals who are substituting in our classrooms. The handbook is a joint effort of the ALSDE and the AEA. Bice recognized the efforts of substitute teachers and how important their contributions to classrooms are. He believes that this Handbook, which he wants the board to formally adopt in the future, will go a long way to provide consistency among school districts.
October is Parent Visitation Month. Red Ribbon Week is October 22-26. School Bus Safety week is October 22 to 26.
While not on the agenda, next was a discussion of Channel One. Bice indicated that he has been contacted by individuals who are troubled by the commercialization of Channel One and the questionable content. Bice has looked into this, and found the content of one particular web site on a banner, gurl.com, to be “unbelievable”. Bice took his concern about that particular site to the CEO of Channel One, who not only apologized for the content of that site, but broke their association with gurl.com as a result of Bice’s intervention.
Twenty-nine school districts have contracts with Channel One. Twenty of those superintendents have been there less than a couple of years and most likely “inherited” Channel One. Bice has asked those superintendents to revisit the need for Channel One and whether it adds any instructional value.
McKinney asked if policy should be developed regarding advertising content use during instructional time. Bice stated that many systems use it during non-instructional time, such as homeroom. Some systems use it to supplement subjects like social studies. It is a local decision, and Bice suggested they leave it at the local level.
Stephanie Bell validated McKinney’s concern about advertising dollars being generated from the schools, and brought up athletic advertising and support as a valid advertising partnership, but stated that Channel One is unique because it is used during class time. She asked if policy could be developed to keep advertising out of classrooms during instructional time. Bice said he will look into that.
Bice has asked Channel One for a list of advertisers. Elliott believes that Channel One has no place in Alabama’s schools. He used the example of the Torchbearer Schools who make a commitment not to waste one minute of the instructional day. Elliott stated that he believes the ALSDE can meet the instructional needs and provide much better content than Channel One can.
Board member Dr. Yvette Richardson commended the ALSDE and the AEA on the Substitute Teacher Handbook. She acknowledged the difficulties that Substitute Teachers face and the handbook should help with training. Stephanie Bell agreed and stated that we value substitute teachers.
The meeting adjourned about 2:00 p.m. The next Board meeting is scheduled for October 11 and the next work session is scheduled for October 25.