Wednesday, the latest National Assessment of Education Performance math scores were released and once again the Alabama scores were among the worst in the entire country. In Math, Alabama public schools finished dead last in the entire country. Alabama public school students scored lower in math than all of the other 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the school system run by the Department of Defense. Alabama students were 52 out of 52.
Only 28 percent of Alabama school students were at or above proficient level in Math by the Fourth grade. Eighth grade was even worse with only 21 percent of Alabama students scoring proficient or better. Reading is not much better. Only 28 percent of Alabama Fourth graders were proficient in the Fourth grade and just 24 percent of Alabama Eight graders. In Science, just 28 percent of Alabama Fourth graders were proficient and only 21 percent of Eight graders. Only 15 percent of Alabama Fourth graders are proficient at handwriting. Reading proficiency has not improved since 2009.
Alabama does not even give the NAEP assessments statewide for Art, Civics, U.S. History, Geography, Economics, and Technology & Engineering to even know how poorly the state’s children score.
While the rest of the country was expanding their educational choices, the state of Alabama resisted vouchers, charter schools and other reforms designed to give parents more options where their children are educated, creating competition.
“While Alabama has fallen behind the entire nation in educational outcomes, our neighbors in Mississippi have experienced marked improvement,” Alabama Policy Institute President Caleb Cosby said in a statement. “Mississippi’s movement from worst educational system in the nation is directly tied to recent reforms like charter schools, education savings accounts, and other educational choice measures. Unless Alabama enacts our own educational reforms, giving our children greater access to high-quality, student-focused education, our ranking as the worst state in the nation for education is here to stay.”
The horrid results in Math and Science are especially upsetting to state economic recruiters because Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs are the fastest growing sector of the economy and recruiting STEM companies is a priority for the state. It is difficult to fill those STEM jobs though when our workforce is largely incompetent in math and science.
State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey acknowledged the poor performance in a statement.
“Unfortunately, there is nothing surprising in our results,” Supt. Mackey said. “As I have been saying, Alabama needs long-term, systemic, and strategic investment to make sure that our teachers have access to the best research, resources, assessments, and teaching strategies.”
Since Republicans took control of both Houses of the legislature, they have passed the Accountability Act to allow students to transfer out of the worst schools in the state and they have passed a Charter Schools bill that will allow a limited number of charters; but the state is years behind other states’ reforms and the test results mirror those results.
The state legislature has invested $millions into pre-K classrooms; but none of that investment has yet translated into higher test scores. Adopting the Common Core aligned Alabama Career Ready Standards was supposed to help; but children from both other Common Core aligned states and the states that rejected Common Core score higher than Alabama kids do. In 2019 the legislature passed education reforms requiring that children who have not mastered Third grade level work not be promoted to Fourth grade. A similar program has been adopted by Mississippi. The legislature also passed the largest education trust fund (ETF) budget in the history of the state for the 2020 school year.
Gov. Kay Ivey and bipartisan majorities of both houses of the legislature blame the state school board and are urging the voters to vote yes on Amendment One replacing the elected board with a board appointed by the Governor.
State Senator Jim McClendon, R-Springville, said, “Alabama is 52nd in the United States! This is an absolute disgrace and a disservice to our children. On March 3, 2020, please vote YES on Amendment One to change how the State School Board is selected. 33 states have an appointed board, Alabama has an elected board. Opponents to Amendment One bemoan losing the right to elect them, yet hardly anyone knows the name of their state school board member, much less anything about them. With these dismal achievement scores in our public schools, IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE AND I ADVOCATE THE CHANGE BE AT THE TOP.”
Original reporting by the Alabama Media Group contributed to this report.