Alabama students to take new standardized tests – Education Week

Published Online: April 10, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama public school students will take new standardized tests this spring that, in addition to measuring academic performance, will estimate their eventual score on the ACT college entrance exam.

Alabama schools will use a suite of six tests produced by ACT, Inc. which manufactures the popular college entrance test. The new tests are aligned with the Common Core curriculum standards and replace the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test and Alabama's long-standing high school graduation exam.

"Parents, students, and teachers will know by the end of third grade whether each student is on track to be successful upon graduation from high school," Deputy State Superintendent of Education Sherrill Parris said.

Testing will begin in the third grade. Students in the third through eighth grades will take the ACT Aspire test beginning April 28. Older students will take different tests produced by ACT, Inc. Eleventh-graders will take the actual college entrance exam.

Alabama Superintendent Bice said an advantage of the new tests is that they will give a projection of a student's eventual score on the ACT college test. Student progress will be tracked through the years.

"We can regularly make sure that children are on the trajectory. Has someone fallen off? What do we need to do differently," Bice said.

Parris said, for example, if a student wants to become a physicist or engineer, teachers and parents will know early if they need to intervene to improve those science and math scores.

Even though the tests lead up to the ACT college entrance exam, Bice said state school officials aren't saying every student should, or must, go to college. He said they want to give students that option.

Schools will no longer have multiple days of testing. Students can complete the new test in about four hours, Bice said.

Bice cautioned people not to assume that student performance has declined if students do not perform as well on the new tests as they did on the old. He said the standards are different and the new test scores shouldn't be compared to the old.

"To compare those, and consider it a drop, is a misuse of those tests results," Bice said.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Superintendent to discuss new standardized tests – Education Week

Published Online: April 9, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama Superintendent Tommy Bice will hold a briefing Wednesday on the new standardized tests that public school students will take later this month.

Bice and state school board members will make a presentation about the ACT Aspire test and other ACT assessments that will be given to Alabama students. Statewide testing begins April 28.

The new test replaces the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test. The new test is aligned with the Common Core curriculum standards.

The presentation will begin at the conclusion of the 1 p.m. school board meeting in Montgomery.

The event can be viewed online: ( )

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Sponsored Whitepapers

• Cloud-Managed Mobility in Education

• Bullying Prevention in Schools Starts with SEL

• Why Interim Assessment Matters

• Enhancing Educator Effectiveness

• Common Core Online Testing: Acing the Transition

• Improving Student Outcomes with Advanced Analytics

• 14 Tips for Smart Curriculum & EdTech Planning

• 11 Tips to Turn Every Student Into a Close Reader

• The Role of the Teacher

• Conducting large scale online exams using iPads

House approves changes to failing school law – Education Week

Published Online: March 20, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama House late Wednesday approved alterations to a GOP-championed program that provides scholarships and tax credits to help move students from failing public schools to private ones.

The existing Alabama Accountability Act provides tax credits estimated at $3,500-per-year that families zoned for failing schools can use to help pay tuition at a private school. The program also gives tax credits for donations to scholarship programs that help bridge the gulf between the $3,500 and private school tuition.

The bill approved Wednesday night increases the tax break that individuals get for scholarship donations and changes when leftover scholarship money can be given to low- and middle-income families not zoned for a failing school. It also alters the definition of a failing public school.

Lawmakers approved the bill in a 63-39 vote that split largely along party lines, mirroring the partisan divisions that occurred last year when the program was first approved. The bill now goes to the Alabama Senate.

Rep. Chad Fincher, the sponsor of the original law, said the program so far has awarded more than 1,000 scholarships, and 88 private schools across the state have signed on to participate.

The bill seeks to do away with the $7,500 cap on the tax credit that individuals could get for contributions to the scholarship program. Fincher believes the change would encourage individuals to donate and help them reach the cumulative $25 million cap on the tax credits each year.

The bill also would change the date, from Sept. 15 to May 15, for when leftover scholarship funds could go to middle- and low-income students who are not currently zoned for a private school. Fincher said the current Sept. 15 deadline is too late.

"Schools can't make plans. Parents can't make plans," Fincher said.

Fincher said families at failing schools would have exclusive access to the scholarship funds until May 15 to cover tuition for the upcoming school year. After that, money would go to parents making less than 150 percent of the state's median household income, or about $64,000, no matter where their children have been enrolled.

"These are families that are struggling, just grasping and hoping for an opportunity," Fincher said.

Democrats argued that the program was designed to help families who already plan to send their children to a private school.

"It emphasizes more the Republican supermajority's intent about abandoning public education and investing in private schools and charter schools," House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said.

The bill also seeks to change how a failing school is defined. Current law defines a failing school as one that has been listed three or more times in the previous six years in the lowest 6 percent of schools in the state's standardized assessment in reading or math. The bill would change that to two or more times over the previous four years.

Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, said she thought a six-year period was too long and would not reward schools that had made recent improvements.

After June 1, 2017, failing schools will be determined by new school report cards issued by the state. Any school that gets an "F'' during the last three years or a "D'' for three consecutive years during the previous four years would be listed as failing.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

Alabama House narrowly approves education budget – Education Week

Published Online: March 19, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The House of Representatives on Tuesday narrowly approved an education budget that divided legislators over the lack of a pay raise for teachers.

Representatives approved the $5.9 billion Education Trust Fund budget on a 51-47 vote. The vote was atypically close in the House, where Republicans hold a lopsided majority.

"It's a good budget. It's a conservative, reasonable budget that puts money into our priorities. There's a lot of things that we wished we had the dollars to do, and I think that is reflected in the vote count," said House Ways and Means Education Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa.

Democrats contended that teacher raises should be the first priority when building a budget, and the teachers association warned there could be election-year consequences for lawmakers.

"We can never pay them enough for what they do for our children, but at least we could have done more than what we have done in this particular budget," Rep. Merika Coleman-Evans, D-Pleasant Grove, said during the debate. Thirteen Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the budget.

More than 100 retired education employees rallied outside the Statehouse ahead of the vote. Alabama Education Association Executive Secretary Henry Mabry told the group that they will make their voice heard in upcoming elections.

The Alabama Legislature last spring approved a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for education employees, which was their first since October 2007.

The House budget stripped away a one-time 1 percent bonus for education employees approved by the Alabama Senate. Instead, an additional $37.7 million, a little more than the cost of the bonus, would go toward the Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Plan.

Poole said that should avoid large premium increases for current and retired education employees.

"I believe investing these dollars into PEEHIP health insurance stretches the dollar farther and is more effective and helps our education employees in a more significant manner. It helps actives and retirees," Poole said.

Senate budget chairman Trip Pittman said the budget would likely go to a conference committee.

House Minority Leader Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, said education employees have had to pay more for retirement and insurance benefits over the past four years and that has eclipsed what they have paid in raises.

"They've abandoned our public educators and our public education," Ford said.

Ford argued that the budget will give education employees another pay cut because it still left a shortfall in the insurance program.

Leura Canary, general counsel for the Retirement Systems of Alabama, said the PEEHIP board has other cost-saving changes that it can make such as encouraging the use of generic drugs. Canary said the House budget should avoid substantial premium increases.

Exactly what the state could afford has been an issue of disagreement among lawmakers during the budget debate.

Poole said the House-passed budget only has about $92 million more for K-12. A 2 percent raise for K-12 employees carries a price tag of about $68 million.

"The math just doesn't work. It's critical we balance the needs of our education employees with the needs of our children and our classrooms," Poole said.

Gov. Robert Bentley proposed a 2 percent raise plus additional insurance funding in his budget but accomplished that by shuffling $92 million in sales tax money to skirt a spending cap, based on past fund growth, that Republicans passed in 2011.

Ford said Democrats wanted to introduce an amendment to restore the Bentley proposed raise and funding mechanism, but did not get the chance to do so. Republicans cut off debate after about two hours.

The House budget also skirts the spending cap by rerouting $23.6 million in sales tax to the prepaid college tuition program. Republicans argued that was a justifiable use of the money.

Ford said the spending cap creates an artificially tight budget constraint. "I don't understand if we can violate it to a certain degree, why can't we violate it to the nth degree," Ford said.

The House-approved budget also provides money for the hiring of about 400 additional middle school teachers across the state and gives an additional $10 million to the state's voluntary prekindergarten program.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

Common Core Sides Spar Over ‘Opt Out’ Bill in Alabama – Education Week

Published Online: March 12, 2014

Montgomery, Ala.

After efforts to repeal common core fell flat, a state senator on Tuesday urged lawmakers to let local school systems opt out of the education standards.

The Senate Education Committee held a public hearing on a bill that would let local school systems not use the common core standards for math and English that were adopted by the Alabama Board of Education. The systems could revert to the state's previous standards.

"I would make the argument this bill lets the duly elected local board and local board members decide what is best for the children in their community," said bill sponsor Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said.

Beason said it would let policy makers compare the education outcomes under the old and new standards.

But what Beason described as a matter of local educational freedom, proponents of the standards said would be a significant step backward for classrooms and students.

Suzanne Culbreth, Alabama's 2013 teacher of the year, held a stack of emails from teachers in support of common core.

"Are these standards what are best for students? I feel unequivocally yes. We have seen gains in test scores and high-level thinking by our students. Are these standards more rigorous and setting a high academic bar? Yes," Culbreth said.

Alabama is one of 45 states to adopt the standards that were developed by the National Governors' Association and tied to federal Race to the Top grants by the Obama administration. Business associations and state education groups have embraced the standards, but repeal has become a rallying cry from state tea party groups and some conservatives who equate it to the nationalization of public education.

The latest bill brought out familiar arguments in the long-running common core debate.

Billy Canary, the president of the Business Council of Alabama, urged the committee to reject the bill saying business groups had lobbied for higher standards in public school.

Only four committee members listened to the two-hours of testimony on the bill. The committee is expected to vote Wednesday.

Opponents criticized the standards as less rigorous and that the texts were politically biased.

Terry Batton, who lives in Georgia but serves as a pastor near Eufaula, said some of the textbooks teach an anti-American and pro "social justice" view.

"Social justice includes far left proposals such as acceptance of homosexuality, alternate lifestyles, radical feminism, abortion, illegal immigration and the redistribution of wealth. When coupled with government mandates and oversight, do you smell a skunk or see a Trojan horse at the gate of our education system," Batton said.

Becky Gerritson of the Wetumpka Tea Party read an excerpt from "The Bluest Eye" a sexually explicit novel by American author Toni Morrison. When she was asked to stop because the passage contained an obscenity, Gerritson countered that teens were reading it.

The book has been a flashpoint in the common core debate.

common core does not mandate particular textbooks, said state Superintendent Tommy Bice. "The Bluest Eye" was on an exemplar list of books that meet the standards. However, the state board removed the book from the list after controversy regarding the text, Bice said.

Web Only

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

Committee approves budget without teacher bonus – Education Week

Published Online: March 12, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A House committee has approved an education budget aimed at giving teachers more money for their health insurance instead of a raise or bonus.

The House Ways and Means - Education Committee voted 10-4 for the budget Wednesday morning.

The spending plan strips away a one-time 1 percent bonus for public education employees approved by the Alabama Senate.

House Minority Leader Craig Ford called the budget a travesty. He said teachers have gone years without raises while being asked to pay more for health insurance and retirement benefits. Gov. Robert Bentley is seeking a 2 percent raise.

Chairman Rep. Bill Poole, R-Tuscaloosa, said lawmakers want to put more money into insurance to try to avoid large premium increases for employees.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

Bill could give home-schooled kids sports options – Education Week

Published Online: March 10, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Some parents of home-schooled children are supporting proposed legislation that would allow their kids to play competitive sports with public school students.

The Montgomery Advertiser Reports ( ) a home-schooled 15-year-old Dothan boy tried out for a local high school football team and practiced with the squad until he was told he was ineligible to play days before the first game.

The Alabama High School Athletic Association requires students to be enrolled in the school they're representing to play sports.

Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools legislative coordinator Jim Chestnutt spoke out against the idea during a public hearing last week, saying that allowing students who are home-schooled to compete with public school teams would be unfair.

The boy's mother says the local team for home-schooled students didn't have enough players.


Information from: Montgomery Advertiser,

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

Ala. governor to sign dual enrollment scholarships – Education Week

Published Online: March 5, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Legislature is creating a scholarship program, funded by private donations, to help high school students take technology courses simultaneously at a community college in expectation of getting a good job at an Alabama industry.

A scholarship bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Mac Buttram of Cullman cleared the House 100-0 in February and passed the Senate 33-1 Tuesday. Gov. Robert Bentley said he will sign it into law.

High school students can currently participate in dual enrollment in career technology courses, such as welding or aviation mechanics, but it is usually at their parents' expense. Buttram's bill allows individuals and businesses to get state income tax credits for donating money to provide scholarships administered by Alabama's two-year college system. They would get a 50 percent tax credit for their donations.

The maximum number of tax credits each year would be $5 million and that could provide $10 million in scholarships for 9,500 students annually, Buttram said.

He said the scholarship program will allow low-income students to participate in dual enrollment. "This can be a game changer for students who don't have the opportunity now," he said.

Republican Sen. Phil Williams of Rainbow City said participating students can end up with jobs paying $50,000 annually. "This is a win for this state," he told the Senate.

Businesses that donate to the scholarship program can steer up to 80 percent of their donation to help train students in a particular field. Buttram said that makes business and education partners in making sure Alabama has a well-trained workforce.

The Legislature's Republican majority made the bill a priority for the 2014 legislative session.

Bentley said expanding dual enrollment was one of the recommendations from the College and Career Ready Task Force he created last year. "Job creation is my top priority, and we must have the skilled workforce ready for the jobs we recruit," the governor said.

Democratic Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma cast the lone vote against the bill. He said he supports dual enrollment, but the bill does not contain safeguards to make sure the program pays off financially.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Posted in Uncategorized

Bentley won’t sign budget without teacher raise – Education Week

Published Online: March 5, 2014

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Gov. Robert Bentley says he won't sign the education budget unless it includes a 2 percent pay raise for teachers and public education employees.

The governor said Wednesday that he will send the budget back to lawmakers if they do not approve the raise plus full funding for the teachers' insurance program.

Bentley recommended a 2 percent cost-of-living raise for public school employees. Instead, the Alabama Senate last week approved a 1 percent bonus. The Senate budget chairman said the state can't afford the $74 million cost of a 2 percent raise.

Bentley maintains his proposal is sound.

Lawmakers could override a Bentley veto if a majority of the elected members in both chambers agree.

The House Ways and Means-Education Committee is expected to vote on the budget next week.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Login | Register

Back to Top Back to Top

Sponsored Whitepapers

• Seven Guidelines to Support Standardized Testing

• Guide to Purchasing Edtech the Right Way

• 11 Tips to Turn Every Student Into a Close Reader

• The Role of the Teacher

• Conducting large scale online exams using iPads

• The Essential Guide to Measuring Student Learning

• Bringing World Language Education to Everyone

• Implementing Blended Learning: Four Common Obstacles

• Introduction to Blended Learning for Elementary Schools

• Common Core Content . . . What to Look For

Posted in Uncategorized