State Releases School List as Defined by Legislature
The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) released this year’s list of “failing” schools, as defined under the Alabama Accountability Act. The results are based on one standardized test, the ACT Aspire, taken on one day of the school year. The formula, as defined in the state law, simply takes the bottom six percent to compile the list, and the law does not consider any other aspects about a school. In June 2017, the ALSDE voted to stop the ACT Aspire because the test did not align to what our teachers are required to teach in the classroom.
In addition to relying on a discontinued test, the problem with the “failing” school list is that high schools are based only on test scores of the 10th grade students. This means that approximately 75% of the students in each school do not participate in the assessment that is scored. Also, a single standardized test cannot represent the programs and variety of opportunities that a school or district provides for its students.
Huntsville City Schools (HCS) has three schools, Mae Jemison High, Lee High, and McNair Junior High on the latest list. HCS, like many other districts, still maintains that the Alabama Accountability Act does not give parents a true representation of how their school is performing, nor does it account for the many opportunities that HCS provides its students.
For example, the Creative & Performing Arts Magnet at Lee High School has been the standard of high school Fine Arts programs for over 25 years with programs like Media Production, Performing Arts, Visual Arts, Dance, and Instrumental & Vocal Performance. Mae Jemison High offers the latest in career areas such as engineering design & advanced manufacturing, as well as cyber security, and is home to the district’s College Academy. Both Jemison and Lee have also seen significant increases in dual-enrollment participation.
HCS is the only school system in Alabama, and one of only a few in the nation, to offer Project Lead the Way, a leading STEM program, as a full K-12 program throughout the district. This program is in McNair Junior High, Jemison High, and Lee High. In fact, “Huntsville City Schools has many regional and national recognized top college and career programs, STEM classes in all elementary through high schools, an overall graduation rate of 88%, and an average of over $51 million in scholarships each year” according to Superintendent Matt Akin. “We also recognize there are areas of real improvements. We are focused every day on looking at the needs of all students with a goal of individualized learning to advance every child.”
We will continue to work on our district goals of improving teacher recruitment and retention, improving literacy, and developing a personalized learning environment that supports all students.