Category: Education

Field Trips Look a Lot Different for Students This Year. But That’s Not Entirely Bad.

For Birmingham K-12 students, the McWane Science Center has been a key field trip destination where students climb on interactive exhibits, touch stingrays and learn about fossils. It’s a place students look forward to going to every year.

It’s especially exciting for 8-year-old Olivia Ragland and her friends.

“I mean this is my second field trip this year, and it’s already been fun,” she said. “So, I’m just happy.”

It is a complete 180 from last year, when Olivia said she felt sad that school was boring.

Many students in Birmingham spent the 2020-2021 school year online because of the pandemic. Many field trip destinations were closed as well. But with schools adapting to the pandemic, in-person field trips are back too. Read more.

After a Blowout Pilot Season, High School Girls Flag Football Could Be an Official Sport in Alabama

The Alabama High School Athletic Association’s pilot season of girls flag football culminated Wednesday with a championship game between Hewitt-Trussville and Smiths Station high schools at Birmingham’s new Protective Stadium. The Lady Huskies of Hewitt-Trussville defeated the Lady Panthers of Smiths Station in a thrilling overtime game.

“These athletes out there, they’re good,” said Jeff Segars, assistant director of the AHSAA.

Earlier this year, the central board for the association voted to make girls flag football a pilot program this season. Hundreds of students competed on 40 teams across the state. The sport isn’t officially sanctioned by the association just yet, but Segars said they’re hoping to move in that direction.

“Based on our bylaws, if we have enough member schools who are going to sponsor a team for 2022-23, we will sanction it,” Segars said. Read more.

How a Birmingham Shop Owner Brings Memories to Life Through Books

History and nostalgia dwell inside Reed Books, also known as The Museum of Fond Memories, in downtown Birmingham. There are floor-to-ceiling memorabilia with packed shelves of books, writings, boxes of photographs and records. There’s even an antique post office box filled with old letters.

Jim Reed opened this shop 41 years ago to become his own boss. But he chose to sell books because they are what he loved most growing up.

“I teach the love of books, the care of books and the importance of books as memory triggers,” he said. Read more.

Woodlawn Stadium Bid Approved; Stadium Could Be Built by Fall

Karlos Dansby had one more reason to be thankful this Black Friday morning when he learned that the Birmingham Board of Education had accepted the bid to build a football stadium and fieldhouse on the campus of Woodlawn High School.

“Without a doubt, I’m thankful,” said Dansby, a 2000 alumnus of Woodlawn who went on to play at Auburn University before playing in the National Football League. “Happy Thanksgiving to everybody and I look forward to seeing this project come to life.”

The board of education on Tuesday unanimously approved a bid of $8.7 million with Argo Building Company for a new stadium and fieldhouse at Woodlawn High. Work on the project is expected to be completed in fall 2022.
It initially rejected the bid Nov. 9 with five members voting no, two voting yes and one abstaining after the estimated base project cost more than doubled from the initial $4.2 million estimate. Read more.

In Teacher Shortage, Advocates Stress Better Benefits

Alabama’s salaries and benefits for K-12 teachers are on par with what surrounding states offer and better in some instances, including out-of-pocket health care expenses, according to a recent report to lawmakers.

But educators and some lawmakers say the state must do better, particularly with retirement packages, to attract a shrinking pool of young teachers.

“We absolutely have a shortage of teachers, but I don’t think you can point a bright light to any one of these things as being the reason for that,” Kirk Fulford, deputy director of the Legislative Services Agency, told a panel of lawmakers earlier this month during a presentation on Alabama’s pay and health and retirement benefits for educators. Read more.

Ivey Recommends a One-Year Delay on Holding Back of Third Grade Readers

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday recommended a one-year delay to the Alabama Literacy Act’s holdback provision for third graders struggling with reading.

“Because we are implementing a new assessment, we need the spring 2022 data to further validate the cut score before we implement the promotion policy and, in the meantime, we will be doubling down for the supports needed to implement the Alabama Literacy Act to fidelity,” Ivey said at the state school board meeting.

The board voted on setting the reading score on standardized testing that will determine which students would continue on to the fourth grade. To implement Ivey’s recommended delay, the Alabama Legislature will have to approve the change during its regular session starting in January. Read more.

Board Rejects Bid for Woodlawn High Stadium

Just shy of four months after the ceremonial groundbreaking, the Birmingham Board of Education Tuesday rejected the bid to build a stadium and fieldhouse on the campus of Woodlawn High School.

Five board members — Leticia Watkins, James A. Sullivan, Derrick L. Billups, Neonta Williams and Jason Meadows — voted against approval of the bid. Walt Wilson and Sonja Smith voted in favor with Sherman Collins Jr. and Mary Boehm abstaining.

The stadium had been trumpeted as a major boost to Woodlawn High School, one of just two Birmingham City Schools that does not have an on-campus stadium. The other, Ramsay High, is landlocked.

“I would like for us to start the project over, bringing as much information as we have to the forefront in the beginning,” Watkins said. “If the cost of the materials has gone up at that time, I don’t think there’s a question about what we’re willing to invest in our young people and we’re willing to make this happen for them. We just want the process to be better.”

The initial base estimate on the project was $4.2 million. Architect Charles Williams said the revised estimate is $8.7 million. Read more.

3 Things to Watch for in the New Birmingham School Board

This week, the Birmingham City board of education welcomes six new members — a mix of former educators, business professionals and education advocates — making more than half the board new.

With an extra $185 million in federal pandemic relief funding, the new board will have a lot more money to address issues in Birmingham City Schools than previous boards. Those issues include still dealing with COVID-19 and learning loss in the classroom as well as student mental health.

The school board works with the superintendent and oversees the $160 million budget. Its members are often the first point of contact for parents, teachers and students with issues or concerns. Here’s what incoming, returning, and outgoing board members told WBHM they’re watching for from the newly elected school board. Read more.

Low Math, Reading Scores Have State Leaders Looking for Options

MONTGOMERY — A north Alabama lawmaker says he plans on introducing a bill for next year’s regular session that would seriously address the state’s drastically low math scores.

Only 24% of Alabama’s public school fourth graders were labeled as proficient or better on a springtime math assessment taken this year.

For eighth graders, it was even worse: just 14%.

Those are significant, but not unexpected, drops from previous statewide assessments, according to an analysis released this week from the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama. Read more.