MONTGOMERY — The Alabama State Department of Education says it has approved about half of the applications from K-12 schools for their share of the $2 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds. Read more.
Alabama college students rank cost of living, job opportunities and salaries as key factors in deciding where they’ll live after graduation, and about 43% of them are undecided about staying in Alabama, according to a recent survey. Read more.
MONTGOMERY — Student test results released Thursday showed overall disappointing scores in the first statewide data revealing the impact of COVID-19 on learning.
State Superintendent Eric Mackey said the low scores were expected because of complications with learning during the pandemic last school year.
“When students don’t have a teacher in the classroom with them, it is much more difficult for them to learn,” Mackey said. “We need students in the classroom with teachers as much as possible, and so the scores did go down and that is a trend we are seeing all across the country.”
Just more than half of the state’s third graders tested as proficient in English language arts, while 40% tested at basic grade level and 10% tested below grade level. Among eighth graders, 52% tested as proficient in ELA, while 40% had basic grade-level skills and 9% were below grade level.
Math scores were worse. Just 30% of the state’s third graders tested proficient in math, while 37% tested at basic grade level and 33% tested below grade level. Among eighth graders, just 14% tested proficient in math, while 60% had basic grade-level skills and 26% were below grade level. Read more.
For the first time in 15 years, tax receipts in the state’s Education Trust Fund are hitting double-digit growth, prompting the Senate’s budget chairman to say it’s time the Legislature considers some possible tax cuts.
While there are still several factors that could influence revenues in fiscal 2022 and 2023 and some growing expenses, Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, told Alabama Daily News the Legislature should consider reducing the income tax burden on some fixed-income seniors and families making around $50,000 a year or less.
“If the stars align correctly, and that’s a mighty big if, I think it’s time to have that discussion about tax cuts and sending money back home, back to the people,” Orr said this week.
The number of students graduating from Alabama high schools and entering state universities and colleges dipped by 5% in 2020 to 41%.
While that decrease can in part be blamed on COVID-19-caused disruptions, it’s also part of a larger decline that education officials say is a sign of a strong economy. In 2011, 53% of high school graduates went directly to in-state colleges.
“I think it mostly can be attributed since 2011 to an improvement in the economy,” Jim Purcell, executive director of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, said. Post-Great Recession, more jobs have been available to people right out of high school.
But as the state works to find more skilled workers, higher education leaders are trying new ways to reach them. Purcell said that as people’s careers advance or manufacturing jobs become more automated, training and courses are available.
Most Alabama school teachers who are temporarily sent home this school year because they contract COVID-19, are exposed to it or are caring for their own children in quarantine will have to use their personal leave time to do it.
A few weeks into the academic year, some schools have had to move students temporarily to virtual learning as COVID-19 cases prevent in-person learning.
The Alabama Education Association is asking local systems to extend paid emergency leave to staff.
More scholarship money is available in the upcoming academic year for high school students who also want to earn college credits in math, science and engineering.
The STEM scholarships are in addition to existing career technical education scholarships that have been available for several years.
Lawmakers and Gov. Kay Ivey increased funding for dual enrollment in the 2022 education budget by $3 million to $21.1 million.
MONTGOMERY — The Alabama State Board of Education on Thursday passed a resolution banning the teaching of critical race theory in public schools, a move that supporters said preserves intellectual freedom and opponents said will stifle how history is taught.
The resolution doesn’t appear to have any enforceable power behind it, and state Superintendent Eric Mackey said he believes that no teacher in Alabama will be punished as a result of it.
“We don’t think there is anything in our courses of study — we’ve done a deep dive — that will be in conflict with the current resolution,” Mackey said. “So it really has no effect on our current course of study.”
Schools that require students to wear masks and follow certain COVID-19 protocols won’t have to send home children exposed to the coronavirus, according to recent guidance from the Alabama Department of Public Health.
“That will make a huge change for us,” state Superintendent Eric Mackey said this week about the number of students who could potentially be sent home from school because another student was diagnosed with the virus.
For schools that don’t require masks, protocol is to send home students who are exposed to a COVID-19 positive classmate. There are exceptions for those who have been vaccinated or contracted the virus within the past three months.
Gov. Kay Ivey and education leaders are stressing the importance of expanding summer learning throughout the state as educators seek to help students recover from learning loss sustained during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ivey on Wednesday toured a program that is funded by Summer Adventures in Learning and helps pair community organizations with schools to create high-quality summer learning programs.
Jim Wooten, chair of Sail, said Sail aims to reimagine what summer school can look like. He said easily 75% of Alabama students could benefit from summer learning. Read more.