Bless Her Heart, Rep. Terri Collins Just Can’t Connect The Dots

Rep. Terri Collins of Decatur chairs the House Education Policy Committee and therefore, plays a key role in legislation impacting public schools.  She is the sponsor of the infamous A-F school report card bill that adds no value whatsoever to our education efforts.

We have written many times how the grading system used for school report cards and the one used by the Alabama Accountability Act to designate “failing” paint unreliable and inaccurate pictures of what such measures are supposed to mean.

To their credit, The Anniston Star and reporter Lee Hedgepeth, took notice of how absurd this situation is and investigated.  Hedgepeth begins his article this way:

“The State of Alabama isn’t a consistent grader.

A comparison of the state’s “failing” schools list and its education report cards show a wide disparity in how schools are labeled across the Yellowhammer State.

Seventy-five schools are labeled as “failing” under the Alabama Accountability Act, but the state says 104 schools earned an “F” on their education report cards. Of those 104 schools that received Fs, only 37 are labeled as “failing” under the act.

Lawmakers passed the Alabama Accountability Act in 2013 to encourage students zoned for schools labeled as “failing” — those that score in the bottom 6 percent on certain test scores — to transfer to other schools through the use of tax-credit funded scholarships.

State education report cards, on the other hand, are the result of a 2012 law that brought Alabama into compliance with a federal push for transparency measures like A through F report cards. School report cards were finally released in February after years of delay.”

Then, as any good reporter would do, Hedgepeth talked to Collins.  Her response is, well, basically mind-blowing.

“Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, was a sponsor of the report card legislation in Alabama and also supported the Alabama Accountability Act.

Collins said Friday she doesn’t see any issue with the inconsistency in labels.

“These are just totally separate things,” she said. “The Accountability Act is just based on a single test score. The report card grades are based on many different contributing factors.”

TOTALLY SEPARATE THINGS?

Tell that to teachers, students, principals and administrators who see their school get an F on one system according to A-F–but are not one of the 75 “failing” schools.  Which are they to believe?  Or what about a school deemed as “failing” by the accountability act–but does not get an F on their school report card?

Or take Montgomery where a group has spent nearly $100,000 to scream from the rooftops how terrible the school system is.  According to the accountability act, 11 of these schools are “failing” and 17 are F schools.  (And three of the “failing’ schools are not an F.)  Which info will the anti MPS group use?  Naturally, the info that paints the worst picture.

TOTALLY SEPARATE THINGS?

Only to someone making law about education who apparently spends precious little time in schools trying to understand what they are really all about and how detrimental such poorly thought out ideas can be.

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery Advertiser Figures It Out

Give credit to the Montgomery Advertiser for being honest about the REAL challenge facing the Montgomery County school system.  As they point out in this article, Poverty and proficiency: MPS’ biggest obstacle may be outside the school system, the issue goes far beyond the classroom and the school board.

Listen to one teacher.

“During the Sidney Lanier High School football team’s summer workouts, linebackers coach Stephen Landrum knew which of his players either just came from work or were going there next.

“I have a lot of kids that have to support their family,” Landrum said. “They’re working jobs to help pay for things and taking care of brothers and sisters. … If you have a schedule like that, there is no time for them to do any work outside of school and when they get to school they’re tired.” 

It’s worse during the school year, he said, when shifts can only be picked up after school and a rough next day in class is all but guaranteed.

Landrum has at least 10 such football players out of 60 who he sees carry their economic burdens onto the field along with their pads and helmets.

It’s the same story in his world history classroom, he said, where some students “come to school only to eat” and others can’t find motivation while wondering if they will be able to shower when they get home.

“There are kids that don’t know if their power is going to be on when they get home from school or if their water is going to be turned off. That’s a real issue,” Landrum said. “There’s 15 or 20 times a year that I find out one of my kids, the basic necessities at home, they don’t have them. That’s just the ones that tell me. There’s a lot more that don’t.”

High student poverty in school districts directly correlates to low average academic proficiency, according to a 2014 study by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA), and at a time when many are looking at ways to improve a Montgomery Public Schools system under state intervention, some within the system believe poverty isn’t being talked about enough.

“I think it’s probably the No. 1 issue,” Landrum said.” 

(Editor’s note: Because of his passion for young people, Stephen Landrum left his law practice to become a teacher of inner-city students.  Yet the PR campaign being waged by a group trying to hand pick the school board wants us to think he is a complete failure )

“Of the 37 schools where a majority of students qualified for free/reduced lunch last year, only six were graded above a D on this year’s state report cards, which measured academic achievement, academic growth, college and career readiness and chronic absenteeism. None of the 37 got higher than a C.

All schools that received an A or B had a free/reduced rate of 28 percent or lower.

Montgomery’s magnet high schools — LAMP (100 percent graduation rate, 100 percent CCR), Brewbaker Tech (99 percent graduation rate, 98 percent CCR), and Booker T. Washington (100 percent graduation rate, 95 percent CCR) — were in the top 15 schools statewide in graduation rate and college/career readiness percentage, according to another PARCA report, and the three combined for an average ACT score of 24.6.

The average free/reduced rate in those schools is 11.85 percent.”

Montgomery has watched this situation unfold for years and years–but local “leaders” have never acknowledged it or stepped up to do something meaningful themselves.

Don Bogie detailed the city’s predicament well 20 years ago.  But the community slept right through his sermon.

So now we have a full blown attack on the school system by a group the mayor calls “the young progressives.”  They have spent nearly $100,000 to trash our schools and certain candidates running for the board.  But I have yet to see one piece of literature they send to our mail boxes addressing the kind of things the Advertiser points out.  Instead, they have the ill-informed notion that seven members of a school board can magically undo generations of poverty and all that goes with it.

Most of us normally think that we get what we pay for.  But in this case, nothing will be farther from the truth.  Anyone thinking you can spend $100,000 and make water run uphill is living in a fantasy world.

Needs To Be Repeated

I said something in my last blog post, that bears repeating and then thinking about.

“When you look at the high schools in the state with the 20 HIGHEST average ACT scores and the 20 with the LOWEST, you discover they have one thing in common.

According to the A-F school report card, both lists have one C school on them.

McIntosh high school in Washington County has an average ACT of only 14.7.  In fact, there are only two schools that are lower.  Grissom high in Huntsville has an average of 23.1 ACT.  There are only five schools in the state higher than Grissom.

But the A-F school report card system says both are C schools.  Forget the 8.4 points difference in ACT scores, someone wants us to believe they are equals.”

Let that soak in a minute.  The state A-F school report card tells us that one of the high schools with the worst ACT scores in the state and one with the best scores are both C schools.

Somehow we are to suspend reality and believe such crap?   And I will go outside tonight to watch the cow jump over the moon.

The legislation creating this very useless process passed in 2012.  Here is the second paragraph on page one:

“Section 1. (a) Just as there is value in assigning grades that reflect the performance of public school students

in Alabama, the Legislature finds that there is also value in assigning grades that reflect the performance of the public

schools attended by public school students in Alabama. The Legislature further finds that an easy to understand school

grading system would best serve the interests of the public as a whole, and specifically the parents and guardians of public

school students, by providing another transparent layer of accountability for the public dollars allocated to elementary

and secondary education in the state”

Where did the legislature find value in doing this?.  Can someone show me the research they used to support such a statement?  Or did they pull it out of thin air as they so often do?

Since being released earlier this year, I have seen just ONE reference to these letter grades.  That was on a hit piece of mail a PAC in Montgomery sent out saying “33 of 50 schools graded D or F by the state.”

Of course, no where did anyone mention that these letter grades were based on a test that the state no longer uses because it was deemed unreliable.  No where did anyone call A-F “junk” science with no merit.

There is no value in such grades.  Unless that is, you are like some folks in Montgomery intent on painting public schools as terrible.

Every law that is passed can also be repealed.  A-F school report cards is a prime example of one that should be.

 

 

Mass Confusion

Two pieces of legislation graphically illustrate how Alabama enacts laws that make little sense and defy logic.

One is a bill passed in 2012 that assigns a letter grade of A, B, C, D or F to every school in the state.  The other is the Alabama Accountability Act passed in 2013 that declares that the bottom six percent of all schools should be labeled “failing.”

Common sense tells us that a “failing” school in all probability would also be one with an “F” grade.  Surely there must be some common linkage between both of these measurements?  Guess again.

For instance, of the 75 schools designated as “failing” by the Alabama Accountability Act in January 2018, only 36 of them received an F according to the A-F school report card measurements.

Of the remaining 39, two got a C and 37 got a D.

So, we put out info last January saying there are 75 “failing” schools.  Then we come along shortly after saying, no only half of them are..

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Each year the Council for Leaders of Alabama Schools (CLAS) goes through an extensive process to identify “Banner Schools” from each of the districts represented on the state board of education.

There are eight districts.  Three schools are chosen from each district and then one from each district.

Here are the top three from each district for 2018, with the score as given by the state A-F school report card.  The overall winner is the last  one listed.

District 1—Baker high, Mobile County system—C

Citronelle high, Mobile County system—C

Mary B. Austin elementary, Mobile County system—B

District 2—Kinston school, Coffee County system—B

Lance elementary, Lanett city system—D

Eufaula elementary, Eufaula city system—D

District 3—Meadow View elementary, Alabaster city system—C

Montevallo elementary, Shelby County system—B

Childersburg middle, Talladega County system—B

District 4—Central elementary, Tuscaloosa city system—D

Westlawn middle, Tuscaloosa city system—F

Paul W. Bryant high, Tuscaloosa city system—D

District 5—Pike County high, Pike County system—B

U.S. Jones elementary, Demopolis city system—C

Booker T. Washington high, Macon County system—D

District 6—Cullman elementary, Cullman city system—A

Hartselle intermediate, Hartselle city system—A

Boaz high, Boaz city system—C

District 7—Florence high, Florence city system—B

Howell Graves preschool, Muscle Shoals city system—NA

Russellville high, Russellville city system–B

District 8—James Clemens high, Madison city system—A

Mill Creek elementary, Madison city system—A

Riverton elementary, Madison County system—B

So, you have 24 of the better performing schools in the state, as selected by experienced educators and the A-F school report card says there are more Cs and Ds than As.

One final look at insanity.

When you look at the high schools in the state with the 20 HIGHEST average ACT scores and the 20 with the LOWEST, you discover they have one thing in common.

According to the A-F school report card, both lists have one C school on them.

McIntosh high school in Washington County has an average ACT of only 14.7.  In fact, there are only two schools that are lower.  Grissom high in Huntsville has an average of 23.1 ACT.  There are only five schools in the state higher than Grissom.

But the A-F school report card system says both are C schools.  Forget the 8.4 points difference in ACT scores, someone wants us to believe they are equals.

Again, logic is no where to be found when looking at letter grades for high schools and ACT scores.

Since there are supposedly 134 A schools statewide, would seem that the top 20 ACT scores would all rate an A?  Nope.  There are six As, 13 Bs and the aforementioned C.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are 104 F schools.  Again, enough to give every school on the bottom of ACT scores an F.  Wrong again.  There are five Fs, 14 Ds and one C.

And we wonder why teachers and administrators pull out their hair?  It’s because they are constantly whipsawed by such nonsense that at the end of the day is only used to make public schools look bad.

 

BCA’s Canary Flies The Coop

The political grapevine hummed Friday, July 6 with news that Billy Canary, long time CEO of the Business Council of Alabama, announced his resignation.  Canary has been in hot water for months concerning his management style and combative approach to working with legislators.

And apparently the water got too hot to handle in recent weeks when several of the stalwarts of the organization, such as Alabama Power, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Regions bank and PowerSouth, made very public withdrawals.

Canary became CEO in 2003 and BCA became one of the most powerful lobbying forces in Alabama.  His influence skyrocketed in 2010 when the backlash against the election of President Obama created a supermajority of Republicans in both the Alabama House and Senate.  With Del Marsh firmly in control of the Senate and Mike Hubbard as Speaker of the House, Canary was clearly in the catbird’s seat.

This was about the same time that BCA began spending money trying to get their friends elected to the state school board.  Like real money.  Like hundreds of thousands of dollars on some races.  For instance they spent nearly $300,000 in 2016 hoping to elect Justin Barkley in place of incumbent Stephanie Bell and hoping that appointed incumbent Matt Brown could hold off the challenge of Jackie Zeigler.  Both were unsuccessful.

Several years ago BCA created the Business Education Alliance and hired former state school superintendent Joe Morton and former chair of the House Ways & Means Education committee Jay Love.  This group’s playbook looked like something straight from the American Legislative Exchange Council or a Jeb Bush foundation.  One would be hard-pressed to call either an advocate for public schools.

Me being me, I have not shied from pointing out the shortcomings of BCA’s effort to shape public education.  Like here and here.

And in the world of an eye for an eye, BCA played an active role in making sure I lost in the primary for a seat on the Montgomery County school board.  Billy Canary gave my opponent $250 and Jay Love gave him $1,500, in addition to activities by various and sundry other BCA operatives.

Now that I think about it, mine may be the last hide that Canary can tack on his wall of trophies.  Which is not saying much when your target is a 75-year-old candidate for a local school board.  For sure, BCA’s contributions to state school board candidates in the 2018 election cycle are nowhere close to as large as they were just two years ago.

What happens now?  How does Canary’s absence impact BCA and their stance of public education?  They are a powerful group for sure and could definitely be impactful in working with public education to tackle some challenges.  But over the past few years, they have seemed intent to be a public education adversary–not an ally.

We can only hope for a change.