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Only 71 percent of Alabama high school seniors are college/career ready

Chip Brownlee

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A new report from Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama shows that there is still a sizable gap between Alabama’s graduation rate and the number of students who are considered college and career ready even though the gap has improved.

The report looks at state educational statistics for last year’s graduating class of 2017.

While both the graduation rate and the rate of students who are college and career ready improved, there is still a gap between the two.

For last year’s graduating seniors, at least 89 percent graduated with a high school diploma but only 71 percent of the same class earned a “college and career ready” designation according to PARCA’s report, which looked at statistics gathered by the state.

The statewide results for the ACT and WorkKeys assessments also both showed improvement for the Class of 2017, but only 18 percent of students were college ready in all four benchmark subjects — English, Math, Science and Reading — tested on the ACT.

The ACT, which is given to all 11th graders in Alabama public schools, is used as an assessment test to measure college readiness. Another test, WorkKeys, which is also developed by the ACT organization, is designed to measure workforce readiness and is given to all 12th graders each year. It measures students’ skills on the math and reading benchmarks as they might be applied in the workplace.

Both tests are used by the state to determine college and career readiness. Seniors are considered “college and career ready” if they meet one of the following criteria:

  • Score college ready in at least one subject on the ACT
  • Score at the silver level on ACT’s WorkKeys Assessment
  • Earn a passing score on an Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate Exam (college-level courses delivered in high schools)
  • Successfully earn a career technical credential
  • Earn dual enrollment credit at a college or university
  • Successfully enlist in the military

The class of 2017’s numbers are an improvement over the class of 2016. In 2016, 87 percent of Alabama high school seniors graduated. And the gap between graduating seniors and college and career ready seniors has also improved. In 2016, only 66 percent of seniors were considered college and career ready. The gap fell from 21 percent to 18 percent.

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You can view a fullscreen version of this chart, provided by PARCA, here.

 

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Protestors deface confederate monument in Birmingham

Brandon Moseley

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Angry protesters on Sunday tried to destroy a confederate monument in Linn Park in Birmingham and successfully tore down a statue.

The protesters defaced the Confederate monument, chipped away part of the concrete and pulled the wooden barrier off the base, according to WBRC Fox 6 in Birmingham. The protestors successfully pulled down a statue believed to be of Civil War-era industrialist and Confederate Navy Captain Charles Linn.

The damage started about an hour after the “Birmingham, the World is Watching” rally, which aimed to serve as example of non-violent protest against the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, WBRC reported.

Former Mayor William Bell had previously sought to remove the monument but was blocked by the Alabama Legislature, which passed the Memorials Preservation Act to protect Alabama’s historical monuments and buildings, including confederate monuments.

Subsequent efforts by the City of Birmingham to remove or relocate the monument were thwarted by Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s defense of the Memorial Preservation Act.

The Memorial Preservation Act was sponsored in the House by then State Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City.

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“Watching live criminal acts of vandalism and destruction of property while Birmingham police simply walk away is really disheartening,” Butler told the Alabama Political Reporter. “These police officers are sworn to uphold the law yet simply turned their backs. I was proud to be the House sponsor for the law that protects all historical monuments and I would be just as upset if this was happening to any of our civil rights monuments.”

“Prayers for our state as we are so much better than this,” Butler concluded.

The Memorials Preservation Act was sponsored in the State Senate by Sen. Gerald Allen, R-Trussville.

Allen brought legislation in the 2020 legislative session to increase the penalties placed on local governments who break the Memorials Preservation Act, but that legislation, like many others, was upended by the coronavirus crisis.

The full state Legislature only met once between March 12 and early May when they returned to pass the constitutionally required budgets, a state bond issue for schools and local legislation.

The city of Birmingham took their efforts to overturn the Memorials Preservation Act all the way to the Alabama Supreme Court where the law was upheld.

The Confederate Veterans honors the soldiers and sailors who fought for the Confederacy in the War between the States from 1861 to 1865.

A number of Alabama towns had said that they would be willing to take the monument when the city of Birmingham had sought to move it.

After attempting to bring down the Confederate Veterans monument, demonstrators attacked several businesses in the downtown area of Birmingham, including reportedly the Harbert Center, the Alabama Power Building, and many small businesses including Hero Donut and the Red Cat.

“Birmingham, this is not the road to reform. Do not destroy the community you worked to build,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said.

A reporter for AL.com was attacked. At least one TV reporter was struck in the head with a bottle, AL.com reported. The Birmingham Police Department fired tear gas on the protesters to try to disperse the crowd and protect businesses.

Similar protests turned chaotic and violent all over the U.S. over the weekend in response Floyd’s death during an arrest by the Minneapolis Police Department for allegedly distributing counterfeit federal notes. Many of the protests have also been peaceful.

Floyd, a black man, was videotaped as he was held immobilized by police officers on a street, under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, for more the eight minutes. Floyd said that he couldn’t breathe. Officers ignored Floyd’s pleas and the pleas of bystanders that officers stop putting pressure on the man’s neck.

Floyd eventually passed out and died. Derek Chauvin, 44, the police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s kneck, was taken into custody on charges including murder and manslaughter that carry a combined maximum 35-year sentence.

Protests in Washington D.C. got so bad that the Secret Service moved President Donald Trump to a secure bunker underneath the White House.

The National Park Service reported on Twitter that a number of monuments on the National Mall have been vandalized by protestors over the weekend. The extent of the damage is not clear as of press time.

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National

Aderholt: Alabama has shown how to reopen for business

Brandon Moseley

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Friday, Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) said “Alabama has shown the country and the world how to properly reopen for business.” Aderholt made the remarks in an email to constituents.

“As we make our way into the first full week of June, I think it is important to remember the great strides we have made as a country and as a state since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic,” Rep. Aderholt wrote. “It was just over two months ago when the world stood still and almost everything closed down. Stay at Home orders were implemented and businesses shut their doors.”

“Thankfully, things are better now as we have begun the process of returning to normal,” Aderholt continued. “The expanded Safer at Home order here in Alabama has been encouraging, and the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States has decreased significantly. All of this is good news, and I am hopeful that the positive news will continue throughout the month of June.”

“Alabama has shown the country and the world how to properly reopen for business,” Aderholt exclaimed. “Our state started loosening restrictions several weeks ago, and with each new set of expansions to the Safer at Home order, we have not seen a significant spike in confirmed cases of COVID-19. Just last week Governor Ivey instituted an update to her statewide order that allowed certain entertainment venues, athletic activities, child-care facilities, educational institutions, and even Summer camps to reopen as long as they adhere to social-distancing and sanitation rules and guidelines. This is great news, and I am incredibly pleased that Alabama is one of the most open states in the country.”

Aderholt said that Marshall County was the hot spot of the Fourth Congressional District.

“As you may have heard, Marshall County has not only been the hotspot in the 4th District, but it has the most confirmed cases in North Alabama,” Aderholt said. “Yet, the good news is that these cases are not translating into hospitalizations. At the end of last week, there were only two COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Marshall County. Then on Wednesday of this week it was announced that there was not a single COVID-19 patient in any Marshall County hospital. Let’s hope this trend continues.”

There has been 693 diagnosed cases in Marshall County and nine deaths from COVID-19.

Rep. Aderholt warned that the coronavirus remains a threat.

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“What remains important, even with newly expanded openings, is the health and safety of you and your loved ones,” Aderholt said. “Ensuring we maintain social distancing and proper sanitation is vitally important, and keeping businesses afloat during this pandemic will remain a high priority. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact my office, we are happy to help in any way we can. Additionally, my website has an entire section dedicated to COVID-19 Information.”

Twelve more Alabamians lost their fight with COVID-19 on Sunday taking our death toll to 630. 593 were diagnosed with the illness on Sunday taking the state’s total cases to 17.952. The Alabama Department of Public Health reports that 9,355 of them are presumed recovered. 106,198 Americans have died in the global pandemic,

Congressman Robert Aderholt represents Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District. He is Alabama’s longest-serving member of the House of Representatives.

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Aerospace and Defense

Brooks is excited by America’s return to space

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) praised the launch of American astronauts on American rockets from American soil—the first such launch in a decade. The USA finally has put astronauts in space. SpaceX accomplished the feat on Saturday.

Congressman Brooks said that the Tennessee Valley is excited by the launch.

“The Tennessee Valley is the birthplace of America’s space program and Huntsville is proudly nicknamed the ‘Rocket City,’” Rep. Brooks said. “I well remember the earth-shaking, dish-rattling Apollo rocket engine tests on Redstone Arsenal just a few miles from our home. I also proudly remember 1969, when our community’s rocket engine work came to fruition with landing and walking on the Moon.”

“I again feel great pride in America’s space accomplishments,” Brooks said in a statement. “There hasn’t been an all-American launch in a decade.”

Brooks said that the successful launch “signals a resurgence of America’s human space flight preeminence.”

“NASA and SpaceX have teamed to launch American astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, the same rocket that successfully flew uncrewed in March 2019,” Brooks explained. “Bob and Doug will embark on a 19-hour journey to the International Space Station where they will spend between one and four months onboard.”

“The Tennessee Valley stands ready to again do our part in making this launch and future launches successful,” Brooks concluded.

This is the first time in history, that NASA astronauts have launched from American soil in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station.

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“Today a new era in human spaceflight begins as we once again launched American astronauts on American rockets from American soil on their way to the International Space Station, our national lab orbiting Earth,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I thank and congratulate Bob Behnken, Doug Hurley, and the SpaceX and NASA teams for this significant achievement for the United States. The launch of this commercial space system designed for humans is a phenomenal demonstration of American excellence and is an important step on our path to expand human exploration to the Moon and Mars.”

Known as NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2, the mission is an end-to-end test flight to validate the SpaceX crew transportation system, including launch, in-orbit, docking and landing operations. This is SpaceX’s second spaceflight test of its Crew Dragon and its first test with astronauts aboard, which will pave the way for its certification for regular crew flights to the station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

“This is a dream come true for me and everyone at SpaceX,” said Elon Musk, chief engineer at SpaceX. “It is the culmination of an incredible amount of work by the SpaceX team, by NASA and by a number of other partners in the process of making this happen. You can look at this as the results of a hundred thousand people roughly when you add up all the suppliers and everyone working incredibly hard to make this day happen.”

President Donald J. Trump (R) and Vice President Mike Pence (R) were both on hand to watch the launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 launch on Saturday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“It’s incredible — the technology, the power. I’m so proud of the people at NASA — all the people that worked together, public and private,” Pres. Trump said. “When you see a sight like that, it’s incredible. The power of that machine and the danger — no matter how you figure. When you — when you hear that sound, and you hear all of that — the roar — you can imagine how dangerous it is. When you feel the shake — and we’re very far away, but you feel the shake over here — it’s pretty — pretty amazing. A beautiful sight. A beautiful ship, too. That’s really a beauty. Considered a beauty. I would say it’s a beauty.”

“I speak to him all the time. Great guy,” Trump said of Musk. “He’s one of our great brains. We like great brains. And Elon has done a fantastic job. But that was a beautiful sight to see, and I hope you all enjoyed it. And we’re going to be saying a few words inside, so I’ll see you inside, okay? Thank you very much. A very great honor to have you here.”

“You know, four years ago, this place as essentially shut down,” Trump said. “The space program was over. The shuttle program was dead. One of the Secret Service men said they were here with the past administration — I won’t tell you who — and they were here to shut down the facility. And now we’re the leader in the world again. And this is just the beginning. They’re going to Mars. They’re going to the Moon, but they’re going to the Moon in order to go to Mars. It’s a platform.”

“It’s difficult to put into words how proud I am of the people who got us here today,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “When I think about all of the challenges overcome – from design and testing, to paper reviews, to working from home during a pandemic and balancing family demands with this critical mission – I am simply amazed at what the NASA and SpaceX teams have accomplished together. This is just the beginning; I will be watching with great anticipation as Bob and Doug get ready to dock to the space station tomorrow, and through every phase of this historic mission.”

SpaceX controlled the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy’s Launch Control Center Firing Room 4. SpaceX has leased the former space shuttle control room as its primary launch control center.\

NASA teams are monitoring space station operations throughout the flight from Mission Control Center at the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew program at:

https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

The United Launch Alliance is also working on a platform to launch men into space with the Dreamliner and NASA itself is doing testing on the Space Launch System which will launch astronauts into space in the Orion module that is also undergoing final testing.

Congressman Mo Brooks represents Alabama’s Fifth Congressional District.

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Crime

Three more prison workers, another inmate test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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Three more prison workers have tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the sixth prison worker to self-report positive test results in two days. 

Additionally, a man serving at the St. Clair Correctional Facility also tested positive for the virus, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) announced in a Friday press release. 

Three workers at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka all self-reported positive test results and are self-quarantined, according to the release. That makes 12 workers with confirmed coronavirus cases at that facility, and 61 cases among staff across the state’s prisons, although 16 have been cleared to return to work. 

The man serving at St. Clair had been treated at a local hospital earlier this month for a preexisting medical condition and tested negative for COVID-19 at the time, according to ADOC. He returned to a local hospital a short time later and tested positive for COVID-19, and remains at the hospital for treatment, according to the release.

There were four confirmed cases of COVID-19 among inmates at the St. Clair prison as of Thursday, according to ADOC, and one inmate there, the terminally-ill 66-year-old Dave Thomas, died at a local hospital less than 24 hours after testing positive for the virus. One worker at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19 but has since been cleared to return to work. 

A small living area in St. Clair prison’s infirmary, where the man was living, has been placed on level two quarantine, meaning incarcerated people there will be restricted to their living areas for meals and all other activities, according to ADOC. 

The entire infirmary has been placed on level one quarantine, so inmates inside will be monitored for symptoms and have temperatures checked twice daily. 

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There have been 12 confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates, and three remained active as of Friday, according to ADOC. All of the inmates who’ve tested positive for the virus had preexisting medical conditions and were tested for COVID-19 at hospitals. 

Testing of inmates in general remains very low, however. Less than one percent of the state’s inmate population has been tested, or 156 of approximately 22,000. 

Prison reform advocates have expressed concern that without broader testing, the extent of the virus’s spread inside the overcrowded prisons won’t be known, and more people will become infected due to the spread from asymptomatic people. 

The state’s prisons were at 170 percent capacity in January, the last month in which ADOC has made monthly statistical reports publicly available.

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