Alabama Consolidated State Plan Recommendations (9-26-17 Draft)

Eagle Forum of Alabama

October 5, 2017

Alabama Consolidated State Plan Recommendations (9-26-2017 Draft)

 

INTRODUCTION

Alabama is a sovereign state of the United States of America. The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution reserves the right of Alabama to govern its own education programs. It states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The statutory purpose of ESSA is to “allow States and LEAs the flexibility to target Federal funds to the programs and activities that most effectively address the unique needs of Sates and LEAs.” Sec. 5102.  ESSA further states that, “Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, LEA, or school’s specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curriculum or program of instruction, as a condition of eligibility to receive funds under this Act.

Recommendation Summary:

1. Alabama’s Consolidated State Plan should acknowledge Alabama’s protection from federal control restored under ESSA, and reflect this statutory return of power to Alabama’s education authorities throughout our Plan. (Page 2)

2. Remove social and emotional learning requirements, along with other complicated psychological evaluation that exceeds the training of public school educators and administrators. (Page 2)

3. Remove mandatory requirements to use “College and Career Readiness” standards (also known as ‘Common Core’ Standards), and allow ALSDE the flexibility to use other standards as well as CCR. (Page 4)

4. Eliminate supplemental information that is superfluous that can result in creating unintentional requirements and unintentional relinquishment of state control to the federal government. (Page 8)

5. Remove ‘birth’ from the age requirement in Early Childhood Education. (Page 9)

6. Replace “democracy” with “the United States Constitution and how a Republic” works. (Page 10)

7.  Remove references to “every student” and “all students,” and replace with “every public school student,” and “all public school students.” (Page 10)

 

Eagle Forum of Alabama Recommendations the Following Changes to the Revises State Template for the Consolidated State Plan 2-26-2017 Draft:

In order to establish a high-performing system of public schools, and to enhance the experience of Alabama’s education for its students, parents, teachers, and administrators, Eagle Forum of Alabama recommends the following:

  1. Alabama’s Consolidated State Plan should acknowledge Alabama’s protection from federal control, and reflect this statutory return of power to Alabama’s education authorities throughout our Plan. The statutory purpose of ESSA is to “allow States and LEAs the flexibility to target Federal funds to the programs and activities that most effectively address the unique needs of Sates and LEAs.” Sec. 5102. ESSA further states that, “Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, LEA, or school’s specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curriculum or program of instruction, as a condition of eligibility to receive funds under this Act.RECOMMENDATION: Overview, Page 7, paragraph 6, remove and add wording:On March 14, 2016, … Executive Order Number 16 (Appendix A) establishing an ESSA Implementation Committee, states in part:WHEREAS, offering greater stability and flexibility, the ESSA allows states to determine best practices for the implementation of academic standards, testing, accountability, school improvement, and teacher quality;WHEREAS, giving states control of academic standards, prohibiting the Secretary of Education and other federal agent from incentivizing states into adopting specific standards, this flexibility will allow governors to tailor state plans to best fit the needs of local communities;Therefore the governor authorized the following appointees to “The Alabama ESSA Committee: Appointees were”

Remove social and emotional learning requirements, along with other complicated psychological evaluation that exceeds the training of public school educators and administrators. This is not the role of public school educators, and these issues fall outside of the ALSDE purview. They may violate parents’ rights, and  will likely result in unknown costs to the education system including legal fees.

“When the Every Student Succeeds Act was enacted, speculation swirled that states might use it as a launching pad to use measures of students’ social and emotional competencies to determine whether their schools are successful. Nearly two years later, not a single state’s plan to comply with the federal education law—and its broader vision for judging school performance—calls for inclusion of such measures in its school accountability system.

 
  1. [Emphasis mine.] Blad, Evie “No State Will Measure Social-Emotional Learning Under ESSA. Will That Slow Its Movement?” Education Week. (October 4, 2017) 4 pages.RECOMMENDATION: Pages 34-35, remove wording:“Strategies and Activities: Create Restorative Justice practices for school discipline – Restorative Justice is a powerful 
approach to unacceptable or at-risk behaviors that focuses on retooling consequences so that they are less negative and punitive. Rather, the consequences involve constructively “repairing” the “damage” done by the student in a way that shifts the focus from punishment to learning” … “Train LEAs on Positive Behavior Supports philosophy (PBIS) 
o Work with LEAs that have high numbers of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions of special education students. o Analyze the data determining the incidents, develop a plan, implement the PBIS philosophy to fidelity and review the data, adjust strategies as needed. o Review the end-of-year data.
o Support all schools and LEAs in the PBIS philosophy. o Support all schools and LEAs in the PBIS philosophy.”

RECOMMENDATION: Pages 35, remove wording:

Bullying PLU/CEU – Collaborative effort of the ALSDE and Alabama Education Association (AEA): Closing Achievement Gaps through Community Conversations that Lead to Collective Action – The Community Conversation focuses on helping a broad cross-section of the community engage in a discussion about how all students can be free of bullying. It is about meeting the educational and social emotional needs of children-as well as their health needs-and engaging families and communities in addressing those needs as prerequisites to learning in school.

RECOMMENDATION: Pages 24, remove wording:

The ALSDE has recently organized and is finalizing the staffing plan of its Office of School Improvement and Turnaround (OSIT). A primary function of this office will be to create and review existing policies and practices for school improvement and intervention, in addition to developing supports for the LEAs requiring assistance. These supports will include evidence-based improvement strategies and models; addressing human capital capacity through professional learning and development; school and district audits with action planning to address priority needs; matching schools and districts with vetted external partners to address specific needs; and technical assistance by a cadre of OSIT staff that includes academic content experts, school improvement and strategy personnel, in addition to climate, culture, and mental health specialists.

RECOMMENDATION: Pages 51, remove and add wording:

The ALSDE will use Title IV, Part A, Subpart 1 state-level funds to support activities to address behaviors identified through the ALSDE’s data collection sources such as Attendance Reports, School Safety Reports, Student Health Reports and Students Incident Reports (discipline). Some examples of state-level activities, not an exhaustive list, follow:

  • Promoting community and parent involvement in schools.
  • Providing school-based mental health services and counseling.
  • Promoting supportive school climates to reduce the use of exclusionary discipline and promoting 
supportive school
  • Establishing or improving dropout prevention.
  • Identifying and utilizing strategies to address chronic absenteeism.
  • Supporting re-entry programs and transition services for justice-involved youth.
  • Implementing programs that support a healthy, active lifestyle (nutritional and physical education).
  • Implementing systems and practices to prevent bullying and harassment.
  • Developing relationship building skills to help improve safety through the recognition and 
prevention of coercion, violence, or abuse. 
conflict resolution programs.
  • Establishing community partnerships.

3. Remove mandatory requirements to use “College and Career Readiness” standards (also known as ‘Common Core’ Standards), and allow ALSDE the flexibility to use other standards as well as CCR. The 2015 NAEP results place Alabama dead last in Math and English in the Nation. This is a significant decline from where Alabama was trending before Common Core/College and Career Readiness Standards were implemented in 2012 – 2013.  Prior to implementation of these standards, Alabama had been trending upward.

The terms ‘college and career’, ‘college and career readiness,’ and ‘world-class expectations’ have pre-defined meanings connected to common core standards. These terms would otherwise have highly favorable implications for Alabama education if they actually resulted in a “world-class education” or an education that truly equipped ALL Alabama students for the future. However, these terms have been nationally hijacked by Common Core advocates to embrace common core standards which fail to equip some students with the ability to pursue a college education following high school graduation. Further, these standards have been proven to be conspicuously detrimental Alabama students’ academic education. Effectively, a “career or career readiness” path may limit students’ job opportunities to the labor pool or lower paying jobs. Rather than equipping students with a world-class education or inspiring students to dream of future college possibilities and equipping them to pursue such possibilities, a career readiness path can mean limiting Alabama students’ creativity, potential and education.  More importantly,using these terms in the Alabama Consolidated State Plan, straps the ALSDE and Alabama students, educators and administrators to predefined national standards and assessments resulting in federal expectations and oversight. This is a violation of the ESSA Act. See Introduction.

RECOMMENDATION: Page 18, Baseline Date paragraph, remove and add wording:

Alabama’s English proficiency assessment went through a standards setting study in 2016 in order to meet the rigorous Alabama language demands. of College and Career Readiness standards. Alabama will use the 2016-2017 school year test results for baseline data.

RECOMMENDATION: Page 20, paragraph 2., remove wording:

Alabama’s English proficiency assessment went through a standards setting study in 2016 in order to meet the rigorous language acquisition demands of College and Career Readiness standards. Therefore, Alabama will re-calculate the target percentages with the 2016-2017 baseline data once we have two years of data. Alabama’s EL committee compared our English language proficiency assessment to other states that use the same assessment to set targets for growth.

RECOMMENDATION
: Page 21, paragraph iv.,a., remove bullet labeled “CCR – (College and Career Readiness)(Schools with a Grade 12) from the Alabama ESSA indicators graph. It is the second bullet in the purple box located on bottom right of the graph. The purple box is labeled “School Quality/Student.” This is a second and unnecessary indicator, that can be easily replaced:

 
 

RECOMMENDATION: Page 23-24, paragraph iv.,e., remove paragraph and graph:

Alabama understands the impact school has on career and or college success. As a result, we have included our college and career ready indicator as another measureable indicator for high schools in this area. Students have multiple opportunities to be declared college and/or career ready. Students can be identified as college or career ready by the successful completion of one of six options. Our goal is that our students will benefit from challenging, world-class standards in all subjects. One of the supporting structures for this goal is that all students will earn at least one college or career readiness indicator prior to leaving school. As a measure of success, our goal is to increase the college and career readiness rate of all students in a cohort to 94% by 2030. The six indicators of college and career readiness currently utilized are achieving a benchmark score on the ACT, scoring a 3, 4, or 5 on an Advanced Placement exam/scoring a 4, 5, 6, or 7 on an International Baccalaureate exam, scoring silver level or above on ACT Work Keys, earning a transcripted college credit while still in high school, earning an Industry Credential, or being accepted for enlistement into any branch of the military. These indicators are periodically revisted to determine if additional indicators need to be included. A screen shot of the current Alabama College and Career Readiness Dashboard can be found in Appendix C.

Re-letter Appendixes D to C, and E to D.

Remove this graph as well:

RECOMMENDATION: Page 26, Schools with Grade 12, and bottom picture to reflect percentage changes, remove and add information:

Schools with a Grade 12:

  1. Academic Achievement as measured by proficiency: 20 25%
  2. Growth as measured by Learning Gains: 25 30%
  3. Graduation Rate: 30%
  4. Progress in ELP: 5%
  5. School Quality/Student Success: Attendance (Chronic Absenteeism): 10%
  6. College and/or Career Ready: 10%

RECOMMENDATION: Page 45, paragraph 4, remove wording:

Title II, Part A state-level funding will support the needs of educators statewide by funding a variety of a professional learning opportunities designed to assist teachers, principals, and other school leaders with resources to identify students’ specific learning needs. These opportunities will offer professional learning that is designed to address the needs of students with disabilities, students at-risk of failing and not meeting state academic standards, English Language students, gifted and talented students, students transitioning from neglected and delinquent facilities, homeless students, and foster care students. Currently this is being accomplished through various means to include both seminars and virtual opportunities. Alabama’s eLearning uses a web-based model to provide educators with effective professional learning that leads to gains in content knowledge, improvements in their practices and increases in achievement of their students. In addion, Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX) web portal delivers and sustains support for teaching, leading and learning through a repository of lesson plans, podcasts, web resources and learning assets aligned to Alabama’s College and Career Ready Standards. This portal also houses ALEX Resource Development Summits, Girls Engaged in Math and Science(GEM-U), ALEX Certification for Excellence Program, Podcast Camps, Project –Based Learning seminars and training sessions, and Alabama History digital Content eTextbook Resource Project. These resources in addition to the face-to-face professional learning opportunities assist in addressing special population students
RECOMMENDATION: Page 69, remove Appendix C, and Re-letter Appendixes D to C, and E to D.

Eliminate supplemental information that is superfluous and can result in creating unintentional requirements and unintentional relinquishment of state control to the federal government. We do not want to limit the way in which Alabama is allowed to use the federal dollars, nor do we want to obligate ALSDE to utilize our allotment in any particular way, now or in the future.

RECOMMENDATION: Page 7, paragraph 2, remove and add wording:

“This law requires the state to use state-authorized Alabama will use assessments and other key performance indicators that give a total profile of the school or school system, or both, a school’s grade, at a minimum shall be based on a combination of student achievement scores, achievement gap, college and career readiness, learning gains, and other indicators as determined by the State Superintendent of Education to impact student learning and success.”

RECOMMENDATION: Page 9, paragraphs 1, remove and add wording:

“…Recognizing that our students and teachers need access to technology to personalize instruction and learning, Alabama recently funded, with the help of E-Rate, wireless access to support 30 devices in every classroom in every school to provide the essential infrastructure for technology rich learning. Our next step is to increase the number of portable devices and technology tools for students in those classrooms for use in coding, robotics and other STEM courses. Teachers will need avail themselves to continuing quality professional development in the use of these 21st century learning tools and resources.”

We do not want students to increase the use of electronic devises unless absolutely necessary. “Study by faculty members at West Point finds students perform better academically when laptops and tablets are banned from the classroom.” Straumsheim, Carl. “Leave It In the Bag.” Inside Higher Ed (May 13, 2016) 10 Pages.

 
  1. RECOMMENDATION: Page 18, paragraph 4.c, remove wording:To fulfill ESSA requirements,ALSDE has created long-term goals for English learners to determine increases in the percentage of students making progress in achieving English proficiency that are both ambitious and achievable.RECOMMENDATION: Page 20, paragraph 2., remove and add wording:

    As a part of ensuring that English learners succeed and meet the long-term goals, the ALSDE has collaborated with the Southeast Comprehensive Center (SECC). The SECC will support ALSDE with co-developing will develop an EL Plan that will guide local education agencies and schools with supports designed to enhance and improve instructional programs for EL students. This project will include co-planning and co-facilitation of EL stakeholder meetings for developing the plan. SECC will provide ALSDE with expertise, resources, strategies, and tools for working with ELs. In addition to developing an EL plan and resources, the SECC support will enable the ALSDE to will measure the impact professional learning has on EL students and the change in practice at the local level.RECOMMENDATION: Page 20, paragraph iv.,a., remove wording:Alabama embraces utilizing multiple measures for student success and is working to create a system of public education that is equitable, accountable and just. Through meetings with various stakeholders, the Alabama ESSA Accountability Workgroup, and other state-wide meetings, it was apparent that stakeholders shared an interest in having indicators supportive of Alabama’s personal allegiance to the continuous self-improvement and commitment to helping children find their success. not only in school but in their careers and lives thereafter.RECOMMENDATION: Pages 27-29, remove all yellow highlighting. The yellow highlights set up a new, unnecessary, costly state agency called the Office of School Improvement and Turnaround (OSIT.) Existing ALSDE currently performs these responsibilities.RECOMMENDATION: Page 36-37, remove entire REACH section. This is another new, unnecessary, costly state program that will put a strain on existing ALSDE staff and limited resources.

Remove “birth” from age requirement in Early Childhood Education. The Plan currently requires Alabama to provide early childhood education from birth through third grade. Alabamians strongly disagree about the value of early childhood education. Certainly infants and toddlers are not pursuing an academic education as charged by the ALSDE. Not to mention, that there are exorbitant costs associated with these programs. The Department currently doesn’t require any formal education until age 7. Further, there is proof that there is little value if any in early childhood education, and that any gain is quickly lost by th third grade. Since Alabama is not required to commit to an early childhood education it is certainly unnecessary to commit to begin education for families at birthThis is can be extremely invasive and violative of parental rights. Therefore, to do so will place unnecessary requirements on Alabama’s students, educators and administrators, not to mention a cost burden we are not capable of bearing. Alabama should not commit to this age requirement in our State Plan.
RECOMMENDATION: Page 9, paragraph 2, remove wording:

Additionally, Alabama is committed to providing a strong educational foundation built by a high quality early childhood education (birth through third grade). The Every Student Succeeds Act provides an opportunity to address the importance of high quality early learning experiences, and to support the development of a seamless learning continuum providing the fundamental skills needed to succeed in later years. Alabama will work with LEAs to enhance early learning and improve coordination and alignment of early learning programs from birth through third grade across Titles I, II, III, IV, V, and VII. Please refer to Appendix D C for all allowable uses of Title funds.

Alabama students need to understand the requirements of the United States Constitution and how a “Republic” works. The ACSP summarizes the ‘world-class expectations’ for students. It is commendable that the ACSP encourages students to understand the requirements of our government, an essential component of a well-educated society; however, the ACSP inaccurately identifies the United States government as a democracy. The United States is not a democracy; it is a REPUBLIC! Two very different forms of government. This wording is a poor reflection on Alabama’s academic improvement. 

RECOMMENDATION: 
Page 9, paragraph 1, replace wording:

“… public schools that challenges all children with world-class expectations for understanding English and its rich literature, mathematics, history and the requirements of a democracy the United States Constitution and how our Republic works, the sciences and the arts.”

RECOMMENDATION: Page 10, paragraph 1(4), replace wording:

“… that challenges all children with world-class expectations for understanding English and its rich literature, mathematics, history and the requirements of a democracy the United States Constitution and how our Republic works, the sciences and the arts. Such a system demands educators with a deep understanding of the subject being taught, a personal allegiance to continuous self-improvement and a commitment to helping all children find their success in school, careers, and their lives.”
7. Remove the repeated references to “every student” and “all students,” and replace with “every public school student,” and “all public school students.” We have private school students and homeschooled students, who do not come under this act. This language is potentially harmful to unintended recipients.

RECOMMENDATION: Do a document search and replace appropriately.

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED,

MARGARET SMITHSON CLARKE, Esq. (ret.)
Policy Analyst, Eagle Forum of Alabama