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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Dial Committee Gets To Work

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

The committee created by Senators Gerald Dial and Quinton Ross to find out how anonymous info given to the state school board made its way into public heard from their first “witnesses” earlier today.

Senator Dial stressed again that the legislature has gone to great lengths to make sure anonymous complaints made to the Ethics Commission do not reach the public and the intent of this committee is to determine how such a “leak” occurred so they can take steps to correct it.
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Fact Checking State School Board Member

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

“Hyperbole” should be the middle name of most all politicians. They are masters of embellishment, of overstatement, of stretching the truth and tall tales both big and small.

As we’ve all be told from birth, “take it with a grain of salt” is super advice when listening to a politician pontificate. I was reminded of this a couple days ago when I read an article in the Gadsden Times titled: “State board member addresses superintendent hire, other issues.”
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Senator Dial Takes Action

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

Unbelievable as it may seem, according to Alabama law, the requirements for someone to be the superintendent of a local school system are much tougher than those to be state superintendent, which is about like saying an operating room nurse needs more training than the surgeon she is assisting.

Alabama Code Section 16-9-2 spells out the requirements for a local superintendent. for example: The county superintendent of education shall be chosen for his general fitness and character and shall be a person of recognized ability as a school administrator. No person shall be eligible for appointment by any county board of education or for any political party nomination, or for election to the office of county superintendent of education unless such person:
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Storm Clouds Gather Over State School Board

By Larry Lee
Education Matters

Most educators agree that the recent process the state school board went through to replace state superintendent Tommy Bice was more like an episode of the Keystone Kops than anything else. During my career I had five jobs where I reported to a board of directors. Thank goodness they all conducted themselves with far more professionalism than we just saw from the state school board.
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