Author: Trisha Powell Crain, Alabama School Connection

More and More Alabama Students Take Advanced Placement Courses. Will That Raise Achievement in the State’s Public Schools?

A growing number of Alabama high schoolers this spring took year-end exams for their Advanced Placement classes, hoping to make passing scores, earn college credits and ease their paths in higher education.

They are part of a steady expansion and emphasis on Advanced Placement classes in Alabama since 2008.

The change has been led by A+ College Ready Initiative, a public-private partnership between A+ Education Partnership and the Alabama State Department of Education. Read more.

Springville High School:  Test Scores, Parents’ Questions Lead To a New Advanced Placement Program   

Amanda Umphrey describes a careful start to the relationship between Springville High School and its new Advanced Placement program.

Umphrey, now AP coordinator at Springville and in her 10th year at the school, said timing hadn’t been right earlier for introducing AP. A step in that direction was teachers taking note that ACT scores of students at their school were higher than at other St. Clair County High Schools.

Court Documents Describe Longstanding Turmoil in Hoover’s Trace Crossings Elementary, at least among Teachers and Staff

Court documents and testimony in a federal sexual discrimination lawsuit are now providing an inside, public look at the dysfunction inside Hoover’s Trace Crossings elementary school during the years parents were leaving in droves for private-and home-school opportunities. Those parents’ decisions changed the school’s demographic mix, emptied out the school, and ultimately led district officials to propose geographically rezoning much of the 13,800-student district.

The Hoover school community is not unlike most in buying the idea that if a school has more poor kids, more kids of color, that school is more likely to have low test scores.

“The notion of blaming the kids is unfortunately very, very common,” Dr. James Spillane, Olin Professor of Learning and Organizational Change at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University in Illinois, said in a recent interview. Read more.

Who’s in Charge of Alabama Education?  Governor, Legislator, Education Leaders Disagree Publicly, Spotlight Fault Lines

There is a battle going on in Montgomery over who controls the education of Alabama’s children. Fault lines are becoming increasingly evident.

Tempers flared at last week’s State Board of Education meetings in a display of direct pushback by state education leaders against the Executive and Legislative branches of Alabama’s government.

Typically, education leaders are called to appear before legislators. On last Thursday, the tables were turned. Both the Governor and the chair of the House Education Policy committee were present at Board of Education sessions. The education leaders took full advantage of their home field position, calling both to task over perceived power grabs in recent weeks. Read more.

Big Education Issues on the Table for Alabama’s Lawmakers

With 12 legislative days left in the 2016 Regular Session, Alabama’s lawmakers will find a table full of education issues when they return from spring break next week.

There are education savings accounts (the bill has been changed to apply only to children with disabilities), a statewide longitudinal data system to capture and track data for students from preschool through when they enter the workforce, the all-things-teachers bill, a.k.a, the PREP Act, the Alabama Ahead Act (which provides funding for wireless infrastructure for schools needing it), widening of the state’s growing virtual school program, and…the Education Trust Fund budget which has yet to be debated by the Senate after its passage in the House.

Not to mention the other 60 or so education-related bills still waiting for lawmakers’ attention.

BirminghamWatch has kept close watch on legislation during this session, so look there for weekly updates.

We’re taking stock of what lawmakers will face upon their return. Read more . . .

What’s the Difference in the PREP Act & What Alabama Is Already Doing?

How are Alabama’s teachers being evaluated?

Are those evaluations helping teachers get better at teaching?

Are students learning more as a result of those evaluations?

The first question is easy enough. The latter two are more confounding.

Identifying effective teachers who improve student learning is the subject of Sen. Del Marsh’s (R-Anniston) PREP (Preparing and Rewarding Education Professionals) Act, which barely cleared the Senate Education and Youth Affairs committee last week and is expected to be considered by the full Senate in the near future.

Since we published the draft of Marsh’s all-things-teacher-improvement-and-reform proposal last December, it has been the topic of conversations across Alabama. Read more . . .

After Months of Discussions, Alex Will Return to School, Despite Failing Heart

After months of difficult discussions, a resolution has been reached to allow 14-year-old Alex Hoover to return to his Limestone County high school—a development which delights his mother, Rene Hoover.

“Alex is happy at school,” she said. “I want him to be happy.”

Rene has been working to get Alex back into school since last spring,

5 Things You Should Know about Test Results for Alabama’s Public Schools

Alabama’s public school students are struggling with the annual standardized test required by the Alabama State Department of Education, judging by recently released results for the 2014-2015 school year.

Though annual testing isn’t new, the ACT Aspire, first administered during the 2013-2014 school year, is. The test is given to students in third through eighth grade in math and reading, and in fifth and seventh grades in science.

Statewide, of the six grades tested, only in third grade were more than half the students proficient in math; in no grade were more than half the students proficient in reading.

At Hueytown Elementary School, Love and Data Tackle Alabama’s Education Problems

The 850 kindergarten- through-fifth- grade students at Jefferson County’s Hueytown Elementary School have a message about education: Poverty doesn’t always mean lower scores on standardized tests.

On the ACT Aspire test they took last spring, in most grades and subjects, a higher percentage of the Hueytown students scored in the proficient range than did Jefferson County school district students overall or students statewide.

The accomplishment comes in a school where 58 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-price meals and where students are a diverse mix – 52% are white, 39% are black and 6 percent are Hispanic.

Reputation, Cost, Location, Tradition: Big Factors when Alabama Students Choose a Home-State College

Year after year, Hoover High School sends large numbers of graduates off to Alabama public colleges, second only to Bob Jones High School in Madison City Schools. Cindy Bond, College and Career Specialist there for more than a decade, says that a college’s academic reputation is key to her students’ decisions. In recent years, though, cost has played a bigger role in the choices, she says.