What happens when politicians forget about children

By Larry Lee

At best, it was a shotgun wedding. A contrived affair with reason thrown to the wind and political outcome the only thing that mattered. A crudely manipulated process with ethics casually tossed aside. A shameless example of blind ambition being the one constant.

The result was the installation of Mike Sentance as the Grand Poobah of all of k-12 public education in Alabama. A decision that months later still leaves Alabama educators shaking their heads in dismay and became so sordid five people have been called forth by a law suit to defend their actions.
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A teacher named Wendy

Education Matters
By Larry Lee

Wendy Lang is a longtime elementary school educator in Decatur, AL. She left the classroom a year ago to work for the Alabama Education Association.

In 2016 she was asked to be a part of a fund-raising event for the Carnegie Visual Arts Center. She shares the wonderful story of why she was happy to. In this day when all we seem to hear about is data and test scores, it is a wonderful reminder that the education experience is so much, much more.
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Survey says: No one trusts the Governor, State Superintendent, School Board

Education Matters
By Larry Lee

At this writing, nearly 700 have responded to the survey we posted on Friday, March 17, 2017. Results basically track the last survey made in December which showed little confidence among educators in State level entities charged with helping public schools. You can see all results here.

Respondents were 69 percent female, 93 percent white, 70 percent work for a school system and 46 percent are teachers. Sixty percent have either children or grandchildren attending a public school.
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Fake news, alternative facts

Education Matters
By Larry Lee

Just to prove they understand “alternative facts,” the Alabama Federation for Children sent out a news release and a study proclaiming that the Alabama Accountability Act is saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

The report, done by Auburn University Montgomery, contends that every time we divert money from the Education Trust Fund and give it to a scholarship granting organization to give a voucher to a private school student we save money. As best I can tell, their “logic” is that private schools educate students at less expense than public schools, so paying for scholarships in less expensive that paying for that child to go to a public school.
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Big splash to UWA

Education Matters
By Larry Lee

At its heart, education is more about hand-to-hand combat than about ballyhooed plans and initiatives. Sure, we love the big splash, but at the end of the day it’s all of the little splashes that make a difference.

And that’s what just happened at the University of West Alabama, tucked away in tiny Livingston, AL. President Ken Tucker and Dean of Education Jan Miller announced the creation of the Black Belt Teacher Corps at a reception and recognized the first 10-member cohort of the program. Read More

More questions on “smear sheet” investigation: Who knew what when?

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

More than 40 years ago, the late Tennessee Republican Senator Howard Baker asked during the Watergate hearings, “What did the President know and when did he know it?”

I was reminded of that yesterday, January 18, 2017, as I listened for nearly two hours while Senators Gerald Dial, Quinton Ross, Greg Allbritton, and Rep. Steve Hurst, convened for their third round of questioning of those who could shed light on how an anonymous “smear sheet” became public knowledge, and an integral part of the effort of the State Board of Education to select a new State school chief last summer. Read More

Something fishy about “failing schools” list

By Larry Lee

The State Department of Education just released the latest “failing schools” list, an annual ranking is required by the infamous Alabama Accountability Act. The Legislature decreed that the bottom six percent of all public schools are “failing” and should be identified annually.

So lists were distributed in June 2013 and January 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

This always causes an outcry from educators they think some schools that face great challenges are being unfairly labeled (The list tells us each year is what we already know, schools with high poverty levels and high minority populations face an uphill battle). Read More

State kicks off A-F school report cards, tells us what we already know

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

After more than four years of endless meetings and countless discussions about how someone can label a school with one grade to encompass its value, we have now made a first step in rolling out legislation passed in 2012.

One has to tip their hat to representative Terri Collins of Decatur for her tenacity in making sure this legislation became reality. She has been the moving force behind it from the outset. But has she helped education? That is an entirely different matter, since A-F has been debunked time after time. Read More

The irony of righteous indignation

Education Matters
By Larry Lee

When State Superintendent of Education Mike Sentance told the State School Board Dec. 8, that the Office of Inspector General of the US Department of Education had determined that the State’s high school graduation rate was inaccurate, reaction was swift and true to form.

Members of the Legislature who consistently oppose public education were quick to tell media that there should be consequences for deceiving the public. (Would this include the 22 senators and 51 house members who voted for the Alabama Accountability Act in 2013 and told the public that this was all about “helping poor kids stuck in failing schools by their zip codes?”)
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More deception and the tie that binds

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

In the waning days of the Presidential election we heard Donald Trump talk a lot about a “rigged” election.  We have now learned that he may have been describing the state board of education’s recent search for a new state school chief.

After two days of asking questions, the legislative committee trying to find out how an anonymous “smear sheet” got from members of the state board, to the Ethics Commission and then a letter naming Craig Pouncey as the object of this attempt fell into the hands of the media has shed light on what took place.
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