‘Failing’ schools still unclear

Published 6:32 pm Friday, March 8, 2013

Officials remain unsure which, if any, Chilton County schools would be affected by the implementation of the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013.

Concerns trace back to unofficial lists floating around of public schools that could be classified as “failing” schools based on the criteria set forth in the bill, which remains unsigned and therefore inactive.

According to legislators and the Alabama Education Association, the Chilton County schools on at least one of the unofficial lists circulating were Maplesville High School, Jemison High School and Thorsby High School.

Although some thought the Alabama State Department of Education released the lists, ALSDE Director of Communication Dr. Michael Sibley said the department has not released any official lists of failing schools for the Accountability Act of 2013.

“We do not yet have an estimated completion date for the list of ‘failing’ schools in question,” Sibley said.

Who compiled the unofficial list is uncertain, but Sibley said they might have been formed using data from the ALSDE lists of consistently low-performing schools for the School Improvement Grant in 2010 and 2011, so it isn’t clear why Jemison and Maplesville would have been included on the list circulated in Montgomery.

Thorsby High was the only Chilton County school on the Persistently Low-Achieving School lists for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011.

State Rep. Kurt Wallace said the unofficial list he had seen was not based on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) report cards, which look at reading scores, math scores, percentage of students taking standardized tests, attendance records and graduation rates to determine schools’ progress annually.

In the report for academic year 2011–2012, Maplesville High and Thorsby High had not made AYP, but Jemison High had.

In an ALSDE analysis of the bill, Alabama Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice said the department is in the process of reviewing the current legislation for which the State Board of Education/State Department of Education is charged with disseminating regulations.

The analysis said the definition of a “failing school” is an area of concern.

“There are four fundamentally different criteria listed in the bill, none of which are part of the State Board of Education’s new accountability plan that advances our efforts under the

Elementary and Secondary Education Act/No Child Left Behind,” the analysis said. “For clarity and uniformity, we would like to see this language simplified to designate the applicable schools as those identified as Priority Schools under the Alabama Accountability Plan.”

The Alabama Accountability Act of 2013 defines a failing school as one that has been labeled as persistently low-performing by the State Department of Education in grant applications for the federal School Improvement program; is listed in the lowest-performing 10 percent of public schools in standardized assessments of reading and math; has earned an “F” grade or three consecutive “D” grades under the state’s new grading system, which is not yet in place; or the state superintendent has declared it to be a failing school.