At the Feb. 9 work session of the State Board of Education, superintendent Mike Sentance caught every one by surprise by saying that he intended to cut funding for reading and science programs.  Board members I’ve spoken with say they had no idea this was in the works.  Since news spreads quickly these days, it didn’t take long for this info to reach classrooms throughout the state.

Teachers have wasted no time or effort to register their concern.  One board member told me they have probably had 150 emails about this potential move.  And educators are right to take dead aim at the eight elected state board members.  After all, they are the ones who hired Mike Sentance and he supposed works for them, though that seems to be open for discussion at this time.

Rural schools stand to lose the most if cuts like this are carried out.  Most rural systems operate on little more than a shoestring and do not have the resources needed to outfit science labs.

Tallapoosa County definitely fits the description of a rural school system and several teachers have sent letters to all state board members–not just the one who represents them.

Here is a sampling of them:

I have taught science in rural schools in Tallapoosa County for 18 years.  I am trained in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics in Science in Motion and 7th and 8th grade AMSTI.  I feel I am well suited to write a letter of recommendation for the AMSTI/Science in Motion Program.  I have been trained since 2005.

I am a staunch supporter of this program and beseech you to continue funding it. Rural schools depend on the supplies and equipment provided by this program.  Schools in poverty districts are ill-equipped to educate students who will be able to compete on a global scale without this program.  We depend on the modern equipment and training provided to students and teachers alike.

Some of our students leave our campus and continue their education in colleges and universities. The lab experiences we provide with the aid of AMSTI/ Science in Motion is invaluable.  We will CRIPPLE our students academically if we do not provide meaningful lab experiences using modern equipment.  The middle school I taught at only had five microscopes and one of those was made in the 1940”s.  Without the assistance of Science in Motion/AMSTI, I would not have been able to show my 7th grade students the wonderful world of microorganisms!

In my high school teaching experiences I have been able to provide high school students with laboratory training that is equal to schools who do not compete for resources such as Hoover or Auburn High School.

I am so convinced this program is necessary, that I trained for biology, physics, and chemistry without pay. I feel it is my responsibility to give my students the best education possible even if it means that I have to pay for the travel and additional expenses needed to complete the AMSTI/Science in Motion Program.   There is no other program in the state of Alabama that ssist educators like this program.  It is a essential part of rural Alabama schools.

Renatta Rives, Dadeville High School

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I teach AP Biology, Advanced Biology, and General  Biology at Dadeville High School in Tallapoosa County.  I would like to tell you how great Science In Motion.  If it were not for ASIM our school and many surrounding schools would not be able to perform the labs associated with the units we teach.

Schools in our area share the equipment from Auburn University Science in Motion. The labs are dropped off each week and
picked up the following week. The professors will remain at the school to  assist with the labs, if necessary.  We receive professional development from ASIM for summer trainings, also.

ASIM has partnerships with Hudson Alpha teachers, A+ College Ready with AP and LTF training programs. The ASIM program is growing and does not need to be eliminated. Why are we even talking about taking this away from our schools?

Angela Spratling, Dadeville High School

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I want to let you know how valuable the Alabama Science In Motion (also known as ASIM) and AMSTI (Alabama
Math and Science Teaching Initiative) have been to myself and my students. This program allowed me to participate in free chemistry and physics training so that I can be a better resource for my students.

It also provides my students access to high quality laboratory activities and supplies (including laboratory equipment that costs tens of thousands of dollars) that my school would not be able to otherwise afford for us. These help make me a better teacher and my students quality of education would suffer without them.

Drew Mackay, Reeltown High School

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The AMSTI math professional development is spread out across several days, maximizing many “steps”  to teaching math fluently.  The session we attended yesterday was interesting.  I  was pleased to find out that most, if not all of us, are currently exercising many of the strategies mentioned in the meeting. 

Hearing and sharing new strategies, games, etc., is great!  I implemented one of the multiplication methods in my classroom today. 

My students know “how” to multiply, but I asked them to show me and explain their individually chosen method today.  Most students could show me, but struggled to truly explain the strategy.  We will be continually refreshing our memory on explaining strategies for each math function we learn or review.

Another beneficial component of yesterday’s meeting was having the Grade  Level teachers sit together and briefly share our ideas, games, pacing guides, drills, etc. Again, I am excited to report that our teaching styles, strategies, etc. are very similar.

I am looking forward to the continued learning “steps” that AMSTI has to offer!

Vicki Lewis, Horseshoe Bend, 3rd grade Math

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This is insanity.  Why in the world must our teachers be undertaking campaigns to protect their students from the very people who are supposed to be looking out for them?

Each one of the teachers above should invite Mike Sentance to come teach their class for a few days since it seems a good dose of reality is called for.