Category: Education

Most Birmingham-Area Schools Improve From Last Year in Latest Report Card, But Work Still Needed

Two Birmingham-area school systems scored better than last year on the 2018-2019 annual Education Report Card issued by the Alabama State Department of Education.

Jefferson County Schools and Birmingham City Schools each improved overall by one letter grade. Jefferson County received a B and Birmingham City Schools scored a C. The statewide grade was a B, with 84 points.

The department has revamped presentation of the report card on its website to make viewing and searching for information easier. The enhanced site allows side-by-side comparison of up to four schools and uses colorful graphs and illustrations to make detailed information on student demographics, teacher credentials and school performance easier to read and understand. Read more.

You can research information on each school and compare up to four schools on the ALSDE site.

Birmingham Promise Approved by City Council

The Birmingham City Council today took a big step toward fulfilling the promise of Birmingham Promise by funding apprenticeships and scholarships for students of Birmingham city high schools.

By unanimous consent, council members authorized the mayor to execute a project agreement between the city and Birmingham Promise in which Birmingham Promise will administer a program to, among other things, increase postsecondary opportunities and economic prosperity of graduates of Birmingham schools.

The city will provide $10 million during the next five years – $2 million per year – subject to extension in accordance with the terms of the agreement. Students must be enrolled in city schools now in order to qualify for the apprenticeships.
Read more.

The Beginning of the End? Court Motion Starts Process to Declare Desegregation in Jefferson County Schools Complete

In 1971, when the U.S. District Court first ruled that Jefferson County Schools were segregated and required the court’s supervision to integrate, most of the people who would be directly affected had not yet been born — in numerous cases, their parents hadn’t born yet, either.

But that era might be coming to an end at long last, though that end may still be three or four years away.

JefCoEd is scheduled to file a motion with District Judge Madeline Haikala that seeks to amend an order handed down in Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education, the landmark case that found the county system operated separate schools for white and African American students. The motion to amend comes after lengthy negotiations with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, which originally filed the lawsuit in 1965, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Read more.

Pinson Valley High School Teacher Raisa Eady Wins Milken Educator Award

Raisa Eady never saw it coming — which was by design.

The biology teacher at Pinson Valley High School knew something big was happening when officials from the Alabama State Department of Education, Jefferson County Schools, local governments and the Milken Family Foundation showed up for an assembly in the school auditorium. Some teacher was about to receive a big award.

But when her name was announced as the winner of the Milken Educator Award, she sat in disbelief.

“When it (the announcement) happened, everyone looked around and I said, ‘Oh, it is me?’ They said yes and I said, ‘No way!’” Eady told reporters afterward. “I’m so honored and overwhelmed today. I definitely had no idea this was happening. … I have not even grasped what’s happened yet. I feel extremely blessed, grateful — and overwhelmed.”

She did have a literal grasp on a big check, though. The award, given by the Milken Family Foundation, comes with a prize of $25,000, and no restrictions on how it may be used. Read more.

One Birmingham City Council Seat Goes to a Runoff; Two Incumbents Returned to the Council

One Birmingham City Council seat will be up for a runoff after none of the candidates won more than 50 percent of the votes in Tuesday’s balloting. See full results here.

Wardine Towers Alexander will face Ray Brooks on Nov. 19 in a runoff for the council District 7 seat. Alexander won 42.41% of the vote to challenger Ray Brooks’ 30.88%.

Two other races were decided Tuesday. Crystal Smitherman will return as council District 6 councilor, having garnered 51.50% of the vote in a seven-candidate field. In the District 1 race, Clifton Woods will return to the council, with 71.27% of the vote in his district.

The three propositions to renew separate ad valorem taxes all passed by wide margins, with those voting yes in each race amounting to about 90%.

Reporting of full results was delayed until Wednesday because of an error in the handling of electronic machine memory cards at three different precincts.

The cards from the Martha Gaskins School, Robinson Elementary School and Five Points West precincts were sealed inside boxes that contained the paper ballots filled out by voters. Officials with the Birmingham City Clerk’s office had to get a court order Wednesday morning to allow them to open the box and add those votes to the total. Read more.

Pouncey Gets Sendoff From JefCoEd

The meeting room was filled with Jefferson County Schools officials and administrators, plus mayors and other dignitaries, even maintenance workers, to see off Superintendent Craig Pouncey on his last day in office.

But perhaps none stood out more than Larry Lee — and it wasn’t just because of his brightly-colored Hawaiian shirt, liberally sprinkled with Auburn University logos.

Lee, a well-known public education advocate and outspoken blogger from Montgomery, was in attendance Thursday morning to give his best wishes to his friend, who is leaving to take over the presidency of Coastal Alabama Community College in Bay Minette.

“Craig, I didn’t know so many people were coming to make sure you got gone!” Lee joked. “Y’all had a good man here for five years, and I wish the state could have taken him away from you, and I’ve written about that…. God knows we need some leadership in Montgomery, where we ain’t got none.”
Read more.

The Gap Between Graduating and Being Ready

Alabama’s graduation rate and the rate of students deemed college and career ready both are on the rise, but concerns remain about the gap between those two numbers, according to a recent report by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama.

PARCA reported that the graduation rate statewide has been raised from 72 percent in 2011 to 90 percent in 2018, based on preliminary information from the state Department of Education. College and career readiness rose to 75 percent in 2018, compared to 66 percent in 2016.

State education leaders have raised concerns about the students who are graduating but are not ready to get a job or go to college, PARCA reported.

PARCA has posted detailed interactive graphics that allow you to look up specific measures of readiness by school system and even compare two schools. You can find those graphics here.

Birmingham Partnering With Bloomberg Philanthropies on Early Childhood Learning Program

Birmingham in October will be launching an early childhood program designed to increase interactive talk with children as a way to foster early brain development.

The Birmingham Talks program will serve 2,500 children, birth to 3 years old, across Jefferson County over the next three years.

The city of Birmingham is among five cities selected to replicate the Providence Talks program, which is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies through its What Works Cities initiative. Read more.

Megachurch Presence in Birmingham Schools Sparks Tension

WBHM

Church of the Highlands, Alabama’s biggest megachurch, has expanded into the inner city, leasing space at two Birmingham schools. But there’s been pushback in the community, some of it highlighting a racial divide.

The Birmingham Board of Education recently renewed the church’s lease for three more years at Parker High School and another campus at Woodlawn High for about $1 million combined. Read more.