Alabama State Senator Proposes to Replace Elected State School Board

Photo credit: Jim Bowen (CC-By-2.0)

A bill to be considered in 2018 may be well-intentioned after the debacle with how the Alabama State Board of Education handled Micheal Sentance’s tenure as State Superintendent of Education, but replacing an elected state school board with an appointed “board of counsel” is a colossally bad idea.

That is what Alabama State Senator Greg Albritton (R-Atmore) proposes to do next legislative session (I’m not sure of his motivation in writing the bill not that it would affect my opinion of it). Truth in American Education was provided a draft of a bill, SB 25, he sponsored that will be considered in the Alabama Senate Education and Youth Affairs Committee.

Here’s what the bill does:

  • Replaces the State Board of Education that consists of the Governor and eight elected members with an appointed 13 member Board of Counsel.
  • The Governor would no longer be an ex-officio member of the board.
  • The Board of Counsel members would be appointed by the appointed Director of Education who is appointed by the Governor and with the advice and consent of the Alabama Senate.
  • The Director of Education would replace the State Superintendent of Education position that was filled by the State Board of Education. This post would be a cabinet position, and the person would serve at the pleasure of the Governor.

If you want to guarantee that the Alabama Department of Education is never responsive to parents and grassroots activists, then this is the route to go. This move would ensure that the state keeps Common Core.

Right now those who oppose Common Core have had few allies on Alabama’s State Board of Education. In fact, Betty Peters who represents District 2, one of the members out of 2-3 who has opposed Common Core, is not running for reelection (her term is up in 2019) (Edited: I originally said that Betty was the only member who consistently opposed Common Core, but I was informed that there are at least two others who also oppose Common Core. I apologize for my error.) Hopefully, a strong Common Core opponent will follow her.

An elected board is closer to the people. This bill, if passed, only helps educrats.

Michael Sentance Out as Alabama’s State School Chief

Alabama State Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance at his teachers’ cabinet.

Alabama’s State Superintendent of Education, Michael Sentance, resigned on Wednesday effective immediately. Sentance was at the job for one year.

“I am humbled and appreciative of the opportunity to serve as state superintendent in Alabama,” Sentance said in a released statement from the Alabama Department of Education. “There are many good things happening in public education in this state. My hope is that Alabama makes educating all children the state’s highest priority, allowing the state to make significant educational gains and truly becoming the jewel of the south that it has the ability to become.”

Resign is such a nice word, but he was on the verge of being forced out which is a shame as he was open to jettisoning Common Core.

Quinn Hillyer wrote that Alabama’s State Board of Education, whose members are elected, planned to consider firing him at today’s scheduled meeting. Apparently, discussion about firing him began several months ago and the concerns leveled at him by board members pining to out Sentance appear unfounded.

What’s the problem? It seems the problem is the fact he wanted to bring some change to the department. Can’t have that. He appears to have inherited a mess, and worked to clean it up.

Hillyer wrote:

Sentance has outlined an inspirational agenda and set of goals for the state’s schools and students. But in doing so, he has roiled the waters of the existing Alabama educational power structure — you know, that same power structure that has put Alabama near dead last in every measure of educational attainment. The state school unions — the worst in the country — are against him, because he has upset their apple cart. A good rule of thumb is if Alabama’s existing educrats are against somebody, he must be pretty good.

He added:

If you as a board member hire somebody from out of state, bring him in, and ask him to do a job, then you should be helping him to navigate unfamiliar territory, offering to ease his transition, and working extra hard to give him the tools and space he needs to succeed. I challenge the current board members — other than Mary Scott Hunter and Betty Peters, who want to keep him on the job — to show more than a pittance of examples of them actually doing any of this. (Whatever happened to southern hospitality? Whatever happened to Southern manners? And whatever happened to basic, business-like common sense?)

Sentance, prior to coming to Alabama, served as the Secretary of Education in Massachusetts and as the Senior Education Advisor to Massachusetts Governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci. You know, Massachusetts who during his time as Secretary of Education implemented an education reform package that made the state a leader in K-12 education.

You can’t get there without rocking the boat.

Not Going to Hold My Breath That Alabama Will Repeal Common Core

Alabama State Department of Education Headquarters

Following up on Wednesday’s article about the Alabama State Board of Education. They met on Thursday and no action was taken on Betty Peters’ resolution to eliminate Common Core.

This is no surprise and by what The Decatur Daily reports I wouldn’t hold my breath that Common Core will be repealed in the Yellowhammer State anytime soon:

Alabama public schools’ academic benchmarks for what students should know are too low, State Superintendent Michael Sentance said Thursday.

But changing the standards, known widely as Common Core, won’t happen overnight.

Sentance and the state school board talked in broad brushes about a possible process for reviewing and changing the Alabama College and Career Readiness Standards. They did not discuss directly a draft resolution that called for a plan for adopting new standards by November, and Sentance said later he didn’t think that particular resolution would go anywhere.

A periodic review of the state’s math standards already was planned for next year, and Sentance said it may be accelerated. Part of the conversation Thursday was about how to make Alabama academically competitive internationally, not just nationally.

“It will take me a couple of months to get some people who are familiar with international standards together and start to have a deep conversation about what we could do here …,” he said.

Oh yay, a review! Watch for the educrats to rebrand Common Core and say it is now internationally benchmarked.

Alabama State Board of Education To Address Common Core

Alabama State Department of Education Headquarters

The Alabama State Board of Education will consider a draft resolution that would rescind the Common Core State Standards (called the Alabama College and Career-Readiness Standards) by August 1, 2018 during their work session on Thursday.

The Times Daily reports:

During several recent meetings, at least one board member has asked for a discussion on repealing the Alabama College and Career Readiness Standards. Other members have questions about a draft resolution.

Board member Betty Peters, R-Dothan, for years has been an opponent of the standards. She wants a repeal and change to make state education standards “what we want them to be.”

“Whatever we the people in Alabama want, we don’t have to have them hooked up to some national template,” Peters said. “We actually know a lot more about Common Core standards than we did before (they were adopted) and we can learn from that.”

The draft resolution criticizes student performance on national tests, citing fewer students are now taking high-level math courses.

The resolution notes the standards will be rescinded Aug. 1, 2018, and the state superintendent is directed to create a plan to develop new standards by the board’s November meeting.

The Board meets Thursday at 10:00 am (CDT) and you can watch online here.

What Do the Feds Expect Us To Do Without the ESSA Waiver?

Alabama State Department of Education Headquarters

As a member of the Alabama State Board of Education, the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015 gave me hope that the state could finally chart its own course in education and repair the damage done by heavy-handed federal mandates on Alabama students’ learning.

One of the mandates that came from the pre-ESSA No Child Left Behind statute allowed the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to micro-manage our student assessment system. After four years of problems administering the ACT Aspire tests to students in grades three through eight and once again in grade ten, our education officials saw ESSA as an opportunity to develop a new test that would better serve students. As Alabama Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance recently told local news outlets, the ACT Aspire test “gives very little information back to schools about what is actually being tested. They don’t release test questions; that doesn’t help teachers understand what’s being asked of them as a result.”

According to a letter sent to Superintendent Sentance at the beginning of the year, it appeared that USED agreed that using the ACT Aspire was problematic. In fact, after an extensive peer review of the test, USED had concluded that the state’s use of ACT Aspire may not satisfy federal requirements, and placed a condition on the state’s receipt of $247 million in Title 1 funding: “External peer reviews and Department staff peer reviewers and Department staff evaluated Alabama’s submission of evidence about ACT Aspire and found, based on the evidence received, that the components of your assessment system meet some, but not all, of the statutory and regulatory requirements of [ESSA].”

In light of the many problems with the test—problems recognized by USED—Alabama teachers, state board members, and Superintendent Sentance reached a consensus that the contract with ACT should be ended and a better test developed. The problem we face is that a new test takes a year or more to develop and wouldn’t be available for students to take during the 2017-2018 school year to satisfy federal testing requirements. Sentance has asked USED to grant the state a waiver to administer interim assessments instead of the ACT Aspire next year while a new assessment is being developed.

It seems like a simple common sense request. After all, both USED and state officials have recognized Aspire is problematic. Yet after a conversation with Acting U. S. Deputy Jason Botel, Sentance reported to the AL state board of education that it didn’t seem likely USED would approve the waiver, stating, “It was pretty clear right from the start that the answer was going to be “no.”

ESSA’s supporters insisted that the bill restored control over education to the states. “With this bill,” Speaker Paul Ryan promised, “We are sending power back to the people.” ESSA author Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) exhorted state officials to test the boundaries of what they can do under ESSA. According to Education Week, Alexander told them to “assume you can do as you please, and if the U. S. Department of Education shoots down your ideas without a clear rationale, don’t take it lying down.” In fact, Alexander advised them to consider legal actions: “You can take the department to court, and I hope that you do.”

Candidate Trump ran on the issue of local control and as President has directed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to restore it. She has PROMISED to do so: “Let us continue to move power away from Washington, D.C. and into the hands of parents and state and local leaders.” Thanks to the State of Alabama, DeVos now has the opportunity to carry through on all these commitments. Either ESSA restores local control or it doesn’t. Let’s find out.

One wonders what’s really going on here. Is USED afraid that if Alabama is allowed to choose its own assessment, it might stray too far from the federal corral not only on testing but on curriculum, standards and maybe other matters down the road? Does ESSA maintain the federal padlock on the gate? Parents and other grassroots citizens warned repeatedly during consideration of ESSA that it continued the “Mother may I” approach to education policy. Were they right?

What does the USED want Alabama to do? We could be penalized for administering the Aspire test and, without a waiver, we could be penalized for replacing it with another test—“damned if we do and damned if we don’t.”

Alabama Elects to March Toward True Progress in Education

michael-sentance

On August 11, 2016 the Alabama State School Board selected Michael Sentance of Massachusetts for State School Superintendent; September 8, we approved his contract. One of six finalists, Sentance won my support during his 55-minute interview on August 4. I don’t think anyone in the crowded room was expecting what he said. Sentance gave us a brief but clear outline for his vision of education, modeled on the highly successful reform effort he had been part of in Massachusetts back in the early 1990s.

As he answered our questions, I looked around the room and saw the expressions on people’s faces and noticed a light of hope in the eyes of fellow board members. When the governor passionately asked him, “Why hasn’t anyone else told me this before (regarding AL’s assessment system),” it dawned on me this man from Massachusetts had a real chance of being selected. For the first time in my 13 plus years on the state school board, I believed Alabama could be successful in turning around our educational system and improving students’ lives as Massachusetts had done. As Sentance had explained about Massachusetts’ success, I knew an endeavor this massive would require years of close cooperation among k-12, 2 and 4 year institutions, colleges of education, pre-k, business and industry, and of course parents, the Governor and the Legislature. I wondered hopefully would we in Alabama be willing to join together to take advantage of this unique opportunity, one that might not come along again for a long time?

As I researched his work in Massachusetts, I really liked what I learned. For example, in the fall of 2001 when Sentance left his position as senior education advisor to the governor, the state’s upward trajectory had begun. It culminated by 2007 when Massachusetts ranked first on the NAEP scores on all four assessments – a status never previously attained. Called one of the nation’s most competent K-12 leaders and a Federalist, Sentance has since 2010 valiantly objected to the misguided Common Core regime. He argued for rigorous, proven standards that are developed by teachers and academics in a state. He believed “the states should be doing this work as it allows for creativity and the pioneering innovation that states can provide…. It’s why we were able to introduce engineering into our science standards in 2000—something still lacking in any depth in the Next Generation Science Standards. So I believe that standards should always be established by states without the coercion from the federal government.”

I read that Mr. Sentance also recognized that while the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act focused on the academic aspect of school improvement, the career-tech sector was largely ignored. As he worked through the issue of improving career-tech programs, there was pressure from some sources to set up something like the European model for determining a student’s work future. but he resisted such moves and they did not accept that model. He said, “The focus was to provide a strong academic education for all students. While there was initial resistance to increasing the academic requirements in career-tech programs, eventually a group of career-tech superintendents courageously embraced the challenge of our standards and significantly improved their programs. And, this was done without tracking or pre-determining the destiny of any student.”

In an interview with AP after the vote, our new superintendent explained, “My goal is to raise the achievement of students in Alabama so whatever people think about Alabama, they know that their schools are good and improving…. I’m excited about the challenge… It’s going to take a lot of work. It’s going to take the trust and faith of educators to work with me. So that is something I have to earn. I understand that.”

The AP article quoted Gov. Bentley: “I am not excited that we are 40th in 4th grade reading…46th in 8th grade reading and 50th in 8th grade math.” I join with the governor who asked the public to give Sentance a chance because our school scores must improve.

As C. S. Lewis once wrote, “If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

I have faith that Alabamians will indeed work together and turn our schools around. Our students don’t deserve the status quo. We must turn back to the time when we were progressing in order to march toward true progress.

Alabama Common Core Repeal Bill Receives Tepid Response

Photo credit: Jim Bowen (CC-By-2.0)

Photo credit: Jim Bowen (CC-By-2.0)

Another attempt to repeal the Common Core State Standards in Alabama was met with apathy among some legislators and mocking by a taxpayer-funded lobbyist.  The bill was heard in the Alabama Senate Education Policy Committee.

AP reports that the bill’s future doesn’t look bright:

The newspaper reports that, as in previous years, there didn’t seem to be overwhelming support of the bill Wednesday, as multiple lawmakers noted flaws in the standards, but argued that it should be the responsibility of the Alabama Board of Education to address the issues.

“It’s an elected body,” said Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston. “In my opinion, they should be the ones making this decision, and I hope that’s where we ultimately see the decision made.”

Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, the chairwoman of the House Education Policy Committee, said in her district, the changes have been seen as positive.

“I continue to have active conversations with local educators and people who support the high standards and believe they are more rigorous.”

A lobbyist for the Alabama Department of Education (I’d love to see a bill getting rid of taxpayer-funded lobbyists) mocked those who opposed the Common Core State Standards on Facebook Yellowhammer.com reports:

Sen. Rusty Glover (R-Semmes) introduced a bill this week that would repeal the state’s current standards by the fall semester of 2017.

“I bring this back because of the need that my colleagues and I see to strengthen the standards for our school children,” Glover told Yellowhammer. “A brag sheet was distributed by the Department of Education in 2011 that revealed all of the progress our students were making. The state then adopted Common Core the next year. The complaints by teachers, students, and parents have been deafening ever since.”

As evidence that repeal efforts are not the radical conservative position that some in the education establishment have argued them to be, Glover noted that even Massachusetts, one of the country’s most liberal states, is moving toward abandoning Common Core.

“It’s hard to argue that (repeal efforts are) not main stream,” he said.

Glover held a public hearing on his bill on Wednesday, which prompted a frustrated reaction from Tracey Meyer, Governmental Relations & Public Affairs Coordinator for the ALSDE.

“Unbelievable,” she wrote of Glover’s bill, along with a graphic reading “Bang Head Here.”

Obviously Ms. Meyer is free to post whatever she likes on her personal page, but considering she was doing this on taxpayer-funded time is problematic. Regarding her graphic, Common Core opponents feel the same way when we hear the same tired dataless, unsubstantiated, useless talking points we from Common Core advocates all of the time.

Common-Core

Alabama Baptists Call for Common Core Repeal

Lakeside Baptist Church - Birmingham, AL

Lakeside Baptist Church – Birmingham, AL

Last year the Alabama Baptist Convention passed a resolution that stopped short of calling for the repeal of the Common Core State Standards.  At this year’s annual meeting they passed a resolution that called for a full repeal.  The convention that met last week at Lakeside Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL passed the resolution without any debate or discussion.

Here is the text of the resolution:

Resolution No. 4

On Parental Authority Through Local and State Control of Education

WHEREAS, Alabama Baptists hold fast their obligation before God to train up their own children; and

WHEREAS, Alabama Baptists who place their children in public schools expect to be able to provide meaningful input into their children’s total education experience; and

WHEREAS, The State of Alabama has entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education called Plan 2020 which is problematic in the following areas:

  • Plan 2020 requires adoption of the Common Core Standards not controlled by Alabamians;
  • Plan 2020 requires implementation of assessments not written by Alabamians and that may measure non-cognitive areas such as a student’s attitudes and beliefs;
  • Plan 2020 requires curricula aligned with these standards and assessments which contain materials offensive to Christian values and American exceptionalism;
  • Plan 2020 requires non-cognitive data collection that violates student and family privacy and allows sharing of that data with third parties;
  • Plan 2020 requires assessments that can be used to predetermine career paths rather than to equip students to choose their own future; and
  • Plan 2020 requires all students to receive a data-driven counseling program that includes “personal/social development” in its Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Model; and

WHEREAS, Alabama Baptists believe that the God-ordained family is the rightful place for inculcating values and determining career choices, and

WHEREAS, The unproven methodology required by Common Core is resulting in significant frustration and dissatisfaction from many students, parents and teachers; and

WHEREAS, There is little or no evidence that the level of student achievement would be raised by the Common Core Initiative; and

WHEREAS, Any sound methods being applied in Alabama classrooms can be utilized without subservience to a federal mandate; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Alabama Baptist State Convention meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, November 11-12, 2014, stand for proven, superior education curriculum and practice chosen by state officials who will respect parental authority and respond to citizen input; and be it finally

RESOLVED, That we urge the Governor along with the State Board of Education and/or the Alabama Legislature to repeal Common Core and accompanying assessments and replace them with sound, proven practices of educating and testing through local and state control of what is taught and how it is taught for the betterment of all children in the great state of Alabama.

HT: Wanda McDonald

Common Core Opposition Is Key Issue for Many Campaigns

polling-booth.jpgI wanted to draw your attention to an interesting article in The Washington Times.  Here is an excerpt:

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a Republican, cites opposition to Common Core as a key reason for her endorsement of state Rep. Chris McDaniel over incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran in Mississippi’s hotly contested Republican Senate primary. Former Oklahoma state House Speaker T.W. Shannon, a Republican, says Obama administration pressure on states to adopt Common Core “is a prime example of why I’m running for the Senate.”

Republican David Brat, the Virginia college professor who rocked the political world last week with his primary victory, went after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor for not fighting hard enough to stop the Common Core reforms.

“I am absolutely opposed to Common Core and top-down education,” Mr. Brat told the conservative website Tavern Keepers days before the primary. “I’m a teacher. I’m in the classroom every day and the teachers, you have to trust your teachers.”

For Maryland Republican Charles “Bud” Nason, the fight to stop Common Core is the centerpiece of his race for a seat on the Carroll County Board of Education. Mr. Nason, one of eight candidates, has teamed up with two fellow challengers, Republicans George Harmening and Jim Roenick, as a bloc committed to rolling back Common Core in the county’s schools.

Read the rest.

Then you have a contested primary in Oklahoma for that state’s school chief.  I’ve heard Common Core mentioned by numerous candidates leading up to the primary in Iowa on June 3rd.  It was certainly an issue in the primary in our U.S. Senate race, as well as, Congressional races.  I’m not so sure how much of an impact the issue will make in the general election in those races.

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s support of Common Core (regardless of what his campaign surrogates say and his executive order) has put a strain on his relationship with the base.  He easily won his primary (Common Core was an issue, but his challenger was steamrolled due to lack of name ID, money, etc.).  Branstad, who has an RCP poll average under 50%, could find his greatest threat, I believe, in the general election.  Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Lee Hieb who is making Common Core opposition a cornerstone of her campaign has potential of peeling away some of Branstad’s base (Iowa Republicans just approved an anti-Common Core plank at their state convention).  If that happens then the likely scenario is that his Democratic challenger State Senator Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines) could pull off an upset win which wouldn’t be a win for Common Core opposition either.

We may see more momentum in the down ballot races.

Like what we saw when twenty-one Common Core opponents won their school board races in Long Island.  Alabama State School Board elections saw Common Core advocates have to spend a lot of money and then “soften their message” and they still barely won.  There have been gains in some State Senate and State House primary races.

Needless to say this issue will be sticking around.

How are things looking with elections in your state?  Share in the comment section below.

Alabama State School Board Primary Results Are A Mixed Bag

I would like to offer my congratulations to Betty Peters who survived a very tough primary.  Betty serves on the Alabama State Board of Education and has been a friend to Truth in American Education.  Other than Betty it doesn’t look like Common Core opponents faired too well.

From AL.com:

Two candidates who have tacitly supported the national educational standards appeared headed for victory Tuesday night.

District 8 incumbent Mary Scott Hunter defeated her opponent, Mike Parsons, 53 percent to 47 percent.

Meanwhile, in District 6, Jacksonville State University economics professor Cynthia McCarty defeated retired teacher Patricia McGriff. With 97 percent of the votes counted, McCarty was leading McGriff with 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent.

Of the anti-Common Core candidates running in the Republican primary, only District 2 incumbent Betty Peters found her way to victory Tuesday night. With 88 percent of the votes counted, she was leading former Eufaula school superintendent Barry Sadler, 59 percent to 41 percent.

The Common Core-friendly candidates had major support from business interests, out-raising their anti-Common Core opponent five-to-one.

However, throughout the race, those candidates couched their campaign messages in softer terms, emphasizing that Alabama had modified their controversial national educational standards.

They “couched their campaign messages in softer terms.”  Is that a polite way of saying they lied?  It’s also worth pointing that that neither Common Core advocate that won did it in a convincing manner, especially considering the money that had been raised on their behalf and one of those advocates was an incumbent.

Not impressive at all, but I’m sure that won’t stop Mike Petrilli and company from crowing about it.