By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Thursday, December 9, 2016, Alabama Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance reported to the Board of Education that the State of Alabama has been giving high school students diplomas that they did not really qualify for.
Sentance had to admit that the State was deceiving the students and people of the State after a US Department of Education investigation questioned why Alabama was reporting the highest graduation rate in the entire country without any corresponding improvement in test scores.
State School Board Member Mary Scott Hunter (R) wrote in a statement on Friday, “Yesterday, the Alabama State Board of Education was informed that the State Department of Education is the subject of a review by the United States Department of Education Office of Inspector General regarding Alabama’s high school graduation rates. Alabama State Superintendent Michael Sentance informed the State Board that, after completing an initial audit, the graduation rate was wrongly reported to the State Board of Education and the people we represent.”
Hunter said that, “There are two components that were factors in the misstated rate: 1. The counting of the Alabama Occupational Diploma (AOD) – This diploma was not anchored to the standards required for graduation and students who received the AOD could not be counted by the USDE as a graduate in the USDE Four-Year Cohort graduation rate.
2. Low Oversight of Local School Systems’ Awarding of Credits – The ALSDE did not increase oversight as needed of local school systems’ awarding of earned class credits. In some cases, local school systems misstated student records and awarded class credit, resulting in diplomas that were not honestly earned.”
Hunter concluded, “My colleagues and I on the Alabama State Board of Education are as angry and disappointed as all our stakeholders are today. Trust has been broken and must be rebuilt. Reporting and monitoring of graduation rates cannot be questioned ever again. The people of Alabama have the right to trust the information their Department of Education releases.”
State Senator Paul Bussman (R-Cullman) said on social media, “Very disappointed today to find out that Alabama’s HS graduation rate was artificially inflated and diplomas awarded that were not honestly earned. That helps explain some of the 17 percent increase in graduation rates. I will be demanding an explanation from the AL State School Board. I will hold them accountable. Parents. students and teachers deserve better than that. No excuse for the total lack of oversight!”
School Board Member Betty Peters (R) said on social media. “Ask Dr. Morton and Dr. Bice. After all, they are the two superintendents who suggested/implemented the policies that led to this fiasco. And ask Gov. Bentley why, in spite of board members’ requests, he never would arrange for the board to have a discussion of their evaluations of former Superintendent Bice before he proceeded to appoint a committee of board members to recommend a 26 percent pay raise for Dr. Bice, a raise which Stephanie Bell and I voted against. As I said during Thursday’s meeting, I appreciate the recent effort by our current board in developing a new evaluation instrument that will be used henceforth.”
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) said, “This week Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance briefed me on the findings from the State Department of Education’s internal audit of Alabama’s graduation rate. I was alarmed and disappointed to learn the numbers have been reported incorrectly to the US Department of Education, to parents, to Legislators and my Office.”
Governor Bentley said. “When Superintendent Sentance was chosen to lead the State Department of Education, he committed to increasing student achievement in Alabama. I appreciate the efforts of Superintendent Sentance and the members of the Alabama State Board of Education in working to identify problems, as well as solutions, on state and local levels. Our Alabama children need and deserve the best education our leaders can offer. I am confident Superintendent Sentance and members of the Board of Education will see to it that happens.”
Former State Superintendent Tommy Bice retired unexpectedly in February.
This follows disastrous test scores that showed that Alabama’s Fourth Graders have poorer understanding of basic math of fourth graders in any other state.
In November Governor Bentley admitted publicly that, “Our education system in this State sucks.” “I don’t use that term very much, but let me tell you. I wanna tell you this: When we are 51st on our NAEP scores in 4th grade math in this State…51st? And we ain’t got but 50 states? That’s pretty sad. And it’s intolerable.”