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.

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 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.

Alabama Board of Education Member Wants Truce on Common Core to Preserve Status Quo

alabama-board-of-education

Alabama Board of Education member Mary Scott Hunter wants a truce among board members in the fight over the  Common Core State Standards, Challen Stephens reports:

Mary Scott Hunter says it’s time for the members of the Alabama state school board to call a truce and stop fighting over Common Core.

"Both sides of this debate can claim victories," said Hunter in a recent interview with AL.com.

"My opinion, we need to declare a truce on this and move on to other important things."

But the answer from fellow GOP officials is clear. The battle will continue.

"We haven’t done anything significant," said board member Betty Peters this week. "We changed the name (from Common Core), but we haven’t changed any significant content."

Hunter, the Republican board member for northeast Alabama, said the state board has taken steps to distance itself from the creators of Common Core.

Hunter pointed out the state school board in November rescinded the memorandum of agreement with the authors of the national standards. Last month the state board voted to remove any link to the list of national exemplars, the so-called "de facto national reading list" opposed by critics.

But opponents of Common Core voted against the efforts to cut ties.

"It’s misleading," said Peters, who represents Dothan and southeast Alabama.

She compared the recent board votes to renegotiating the terms of an engagement after you’ve already been married.

Alabama College and Career Readiness Standards contain 100 percent of the national Common Core standards. And Peters said many of the standards are grade inappropriate.

Peters said removing a link to the list containing suggested reading materials doesn’t forbid the use of those books. So she voted against it last month. "I do not want to confuse the public."

Read the rest.  Peters is right.  The recent board votes do nothing to change the content.  The problems that exist with the content of the Common Core, still exists with Alabama’s College and Career Readiness Standards.  Nothing has changed, so it is not surprising that Hunter wants a truce.

Alabama State School Board to Vote on Meaningless Resolution

alabama-state-flagThe Alabama State Board of Education is set to vote on a resolution that would rescind a 2009 agreement with the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers related to the Common Core State Standards.  The Dothan Eagle reports:

According to a press release by the state, the move would help remove doubts that Alabama’s standards in math and English language arts were in fact a state initiated and a state-led effort. The NGO helped develop Core Standards, but each state adopting the standards was able to put its own spin on their state’s standards.

The original agreement between Alabama and the NGO and CCSSO was intended to acknowledge the development of a set of internationally-benchmarked standards that could be shared across states, according to the state Department of Education.

Alabama State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice said the state will continue to work with the NGO and CCSSO and will also continue to implement the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, the Alabama version of Common Core.

Board member Betty Peters says she’s not voting in favor because it’s a meaningless resolution.  I agree.  How exactly will this resolution “remove doubts”?  Only a low-information voter would believe that.  Are they repealing the standards?  No.  Are they rewriting the standards?  No.  Are they even having public hearings on these?  No.  What does this do?  They are playing revisionist history hoping that enough people buy it.  So what if they rescind the agreement if they keep the standards?  The resolution doesn’t DO anything.

Dr. Bice says they will continue to implement the “Alabama College and Career Ready Standards” while working with the NGO and CCSSO.  Oh yes, he’s trying to pull an Arizona.  If you call it something different then people won’t think it’s Common Core.  Alabama residents, don’t be fooled, the “Alabama College and Career Ready Standards” for Math and ELA are Common Core.  They were not state-led, they were special interest led and funded.  The Alabama Department of Education may not have a formal MOU with NGA or CCSSO, but will continue to work with them.  What has changed?

Absolutely nothing.

Alabama Pulls Out of PARCC and SBAC

Edweek reported late Friday that Alabama has pulled out of both testing consortia that it was involved in.

In an email to EdWeek, the state’s assessment director, Gloria Turner, confirmed that Alabama has bowed out of both the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. She said the department of education “has decided to go in another direction,” but didn’t offer any more detail.

The move wasn’t yet official within the two consortia, since the requisite processes haven’t yet been completed. The decision leaves PARCC with 22 members and Smarter Balanced with 24.

Alabama, you might recall, has been one of the dwindling number of states that have been playing “participating,” or “advisory” roles in each consortium. That means the state has been a part of discussions, but hasn’t had voting power. It also hasn’t had to choose one or the other group, which a state must do when it becomes a “governing” member of a consortium, with the accompanying voting power.

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley who sits as President of the State Board of Education offered a resolution that would have repealed the Common Core back in the fall of 2011.  Unfortunately it lost on a 6-3 vote with Governor Bentley, Stephanie Bell and Betty Peters all voting in favor of rescinding the standards.

Unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily indicate that they will withdraw from using the standards.  They just won’t use these assessments.