In mid December we reported about former state superintendent Joe Morton lauding the Alabama Accountability Act, without doubt one of the most wrong-headed pieces of education policy ever enacted in Alabama. A bill that has now diverted more than $66 million from the education trust fund, given scholarships to at least 1,000 students already attending private schools and totally ignored the 20,000+ students in our “failing schools, the very ones we were told the law would help.
Now Joe is back, this time telling us how great the proposed RAISE Act will be.
What is mystifying is that hundreds and hundreds of teachers disagree vigorously with his assessment. For example, go to this petition started by Saraland teacher Justin McNellage and you will find that more than 5,000 people have said that they are opposed to RAISE. To see why, scroll through the more than 1,500 comments at the end of the petition that have come from educators and friends of educators in 60 of our 67 counties.
Morton says that RAISE will attract young people to teaching. But teacher after teacher I have heard from believe just the opposite. They think the proposed legislation will make a teacher’s life more difficult and encourage more of their colleagues to retire.
I shared Morton’s editorial with some superintendents I know well and respect a great deal. One called it “bunk.” Another asked, “Does he really believe this?”
Joe Windle is superintendent Tallapoosa County. He does not agree with Morton’s view at all. “Using one test to determine achievement levels takes us back to what we are trying to get away from–No Child Left Behind,” he says. “There is much more involved in assessing student learning than standardized test scores.”
“When you discuss student achievement and learning outcomes, the ‘long pole in the tent’ in Alabama is poverty and its effects on classroom learning. It is superficial to think that it is all about what a teacher does or does not do.”
To me the one most important measurement of how an education system is working is high school graduation rate. After all, the only goal we have for every student in the first grade is to see them one day get their diploma.
When my friend Joe Morton retired as state superintendent in 2011 the Alabama grad rate was 72 percent. Today it is 89 percent, the highest in state history. If RAISE is the answer to all our prayers, why are we now graduating more students than ever before?