October 2021 SBOE Meeting Recap
SBOE Discusses ACAP Cut Scores, Approves FY23 Budget Request
The State Board of Education spent most of its work session Thursday discussing Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program (ACAP) cut scores and the Alabama Literacy Act’s retention requirement. The Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) presented recommendations, expressing significant concern with data quality and reliability issues resulting from the pandemic, especially in the areas of access and engagement. When standards were initially set prior to the pandemic, Alabama teachers serving on the committee were operating with the assumption that students would have full access to teachers, instruction and school in general.
TAC members questioned whether students had appropriate levels of access to teachers, instruction and schools during COVID-19 school closures, mandated quarantines and remote learning. The committee emphasized that inadequate access resulting in a lack of engagement adversely affects student performance. As such, committee members were unanimous in a recommendation to delay retention.
“If we implement retention today, the risk is that kids being identified as needing support may not need support, and those identified who do not need support, may actually need it. By delaying retention, we can set up validity studies,” said Juan D’Brot, a committee member representing the National Center of Assessment.
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Mackey reminded the board that the retention piece is in the hands of the legislature and governor, and the SBOE is required to select a cut score for the initial 2021 ACAP assessment. The cut score recommendation will be considered at the board’s November meeting.
Prior to the work session, the board approved the department’s $5.5 billion FY23 budget request. The request, a $544 million increase over FY22, was discussed at last month’s work session and includes funding increases for school nurses, math coaches, special education teacher incentive stipends, additional middle school teaching units, gifted, transportation, mental health and more. The request now goes to Gov. Kay Ivey who must submit her proposal to the legislature when it convenes in January 2022.
In a 6-2 vote, the board made permanent an emergency rule it adopted in August pertaining to “Certain Teaching Techniques” (Alabama Administrative Code Rule 290-040-040-.02). The rule is related to the hot-button issue of critical race theory (CRT), a college-level academic concept based on the premise that race isn’t biological, but rather a social construct embedded in society within systems and institutions that play a role in racial inequality. CRT is not taught in any of Alabama’s schools, nor is it included in the state’s social studies course of study, which has been hailed as exemplary by the conservative Fordham Institute. The rule prohibits instruction that indoctrinates students in social or political ideologies or theories that promote one race or sex over another.
Prior to the vote, 11 people who signed up to speak at the meeting voiced their dissent over the rule change, expressing concern the move will have a chilling effect on how history is taught and urging the board to reconsider its position.
Other SBOE News
Mackey provided an update on supply chain issues impacting the Child Nutrition Program across the state. Interruptions are occurring due to a lack of warehouse workers and drivers. School officials and bus drivers in the school systems affected have stepped up to assist with food deliveries. Mackey said the state averages 60,000 deliveries per week but had 108,000 deliveries last week to help address the food shortage.
Other items of note included:
- The Dyslexia Advisory Council (DAC) shared the latest information about efforts to support children who are identified as being dyslexic. DAC members and others in the audience wore red in support of Dyslexia Awareness Month.
- The board approved commendatory and other resolutions, including recognizing October as Dyslexia Awareness Month, Manufacturing Month and Statewide Parent Engagement Month.
Next State Board of Education Meeting
The next meeting of the Alabama State Board of Education will take place Wednesday, November 10, 2021, at the Gordon Persons Building in Montgomery.