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Opinion | When it comes to measuring what matters, leadership matters

There is nothing more important that we can do than graduate our students ready for the next step.

VIA ALABAMA WORKS

Leadership matters. The State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Eric Mackey, and the Alabama State Board of Education demonstrated tremendous leadership on Thursday, September 8th by voting to announce their intent to adopt an administrative rule requiring students to graduate college and career ready beginning with the Class of 2028. The rule was adopted by a vote of 6-3.

The coalition of support for the rule was led by Governor Kay Ivey, who exhorted her colleagues to support the rule as she presided over the State Board of Education meeting. 

Prior to the vote, Governor Ivey said, “closing the gap between the college and career readiness rate and the graduation rate is about more than just numbers—this is about closing opportunity gaps by making sure that our students are ready to take the next step. Parents want their children to graduate high school with the skills needed to excel in college and career.” 

Governor Ivey couldn’t be more correct. The 16-percentage point gap between the 92 percent graduation rate and 76 percent college and career readiness rate for the classes of 2020 and 2021 is unconscionable. For a state education budget of $8.3 billion, parent, employers, and taxpayers expect us to prepare our students to graduate college and career ready.

The rule is about more than a requirement. The rule is about standardizing diploma requirements, preparing students to take the next step in the postsecondary education and career journeys, and it is also about focusing the attention of state and local leaders on putting resources where they need to be to close gaps in access to quality college and career readiness indicators. 

Since the rule does not take effect until 2028, the State Board of Education and State Superintendent Mackey have plenty of time to work with the Legislature and local school districts to expand access to a variety of college and career readiness indicators to meet the interests of every student.

Currently, students can demonstrate college and career readiness by attaining one or more of the following college and career readiness indicators:

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• Scoring college ready in at least one subject on the ACT

• Scoring at the silver level or above on the WorkKeys Assessment

• Earning a passing score on an Advanced Placement Test

• Earning a passing score on an International Baccalaureate Exam

• Successfully earning a Career Technical Education credential

• Earning dual enrollment credit at a two- or four-year college or university

• Successfully enlisting in the military

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• Completing a CTE program of study

• Completing an in-school youth apprenticeship

• Completing any additional college and career readiness indicator adopted by the State Board of Education

Myriad education and industry organizations such as the Alabama Business Education Alliance, the Alabama Farmers Federation, A+ Education Partnership, and the Alabama Workforce Council advocated for adoption of the rule.

Governor Ivey was joined in supporting the rule by Dr. Tonya Chestnut, Mrs. Tracie West, Dr. Wayne Reynolds, Dr. Yvette Richardson, and Dr. Cynthia McCarty.

Some have argued that the rule is just one more requirement on the backs of already overworked educators, but as Governor Ivey said during the September Board meeting prior to the vote on the rule, “[t]his is not about adding one more requirement, rather it is about measuring what matters. This vote will focus our attention and energy on making sure resources are where they need to be.” 

There is nothing more important that we can do than graduate our students ready for the next step. The adoption of this rule signals our commitment to this most sacred duty.

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Through partnerships with the Alabama Community College System to expand dual enrollment options and credentialing options, partnerships with the Alabama Office of Apprenticeship to expand work-based learning options such as apprenticeship, and partnerships with A+ Education Partnership to expand access to Advanced Placement courses, we are doing the work to expand access to college and career readiness indicators that will truly prepare our students for the next step.

The ability for the State Board of Education to add additional indicators will help close any remaining gaps as we prepare for implementation in 2028. However, we hope that most of our schools will work to reach 100 percent college and career readiness prior to 2028.

We already have several shining examples of 100 percent college and career readiness, such as Piedmont City Schools with a graduation rate and college and career readiness rate of 100 percent for the Class of 2021 and Coffee County Schools with a graduation rate and college and career readiness rate of 99 percent, that should be emulated.

The vote on September 8, 2022, was a wonderful first step, but the work is not finished. The rule is now out for public comment, and the State Board of Education will likely vote to adopt the final rule in November 2022.

We encourage you to reach out to your State Board member to thank them for the leadership they displayed in September and to encourage them to finish the job at the November 8th State School Board Meeting.

Remember, when it comes to measuring what matters for our students, like college and career readiness, leadership matters!

Tim McCartney, formerly of McCartney Construction in Gadsden, is the Chairman of the Alabama Workforce Council.  To learn more about the Council, visit www.alabamaworks.com.

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