Due to the strong leadership of Governor Ivey, the Alabama Legislature, the State Board of Education, the State Department of Education, and education advocates in business and industry, Alabama’s historically anemic student proficiency scores and national rankings are beginning to move in the right direction.
This didn’t happen by accident. Governor Kay Ivey is Alabama’s education governor, and she has done more to transform Alabama’s K-12 education system during her five years in office than any of her predecessors.
From the beginning of her term as Governor, Kay Ivey has always said that literacy and numeracy are the “blocking and tackling” of education. During her first term, Governor Ivey set the bar for the Legislature and Alabama State Department of Education, and the Alabama State Board of Education to begin the hard work of improving Alabama’s education system to produce the educational results that Alabamians deserve. Under Governor Ivey’s leadership, wise investments have been made to lay the foundation for excellence in literacy and numeracy.
Governor Ivey signed the Alabama Numeracy Act into law in May 2022, which places the same level of focus on mathematics that the Alabama Literacy Act placed on reading in 2019.
Alabama’s business community, through the work of the Alabama Workforce Council and other advocacy groups, have worked in conjunction with Governor Ivey to implement much-needed educational improvements.
Unfortunately, Alabama’s educational assessments, standards, and state superintendents have been altered or replaced every other year for a decade. Typically, change affects performance. Alabama’s constant changes in leadership, assessments, and standards may have something to do with our low educational test scores. To maintain our current momentum, we must stop the standards war driven by reactionary voices that continue to push to change our standards every other year.
Continued changes in tests and standards confuse students, parents, and educators. It also hinders our ability to determine student progress over time. It is extremely important to consistently maintain standards over a long enough period to accurately compare current performance to prior performance. Without consistency in standards and testing, confusion reigns.
We are pleased that Alabama’s 2019 Mathematics and 2021 English Language Arts courses of study were developed by Alabama’s teachers and members of business and industry.
Alabama has a new assessment system, the Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program (ACAP). Hopefully, our leaders will stick with the new assessment program for a long enough period to eliminate confusion.
Consistency will allow all Alabama education stakeholders—parents, students, educators, businesses, and citizens—to understand our educational goals and test results.
Due to Governor Ivey’s strong and consistent leadership, strong standards, and an assessment system aligned to the standards, we have already seen some limited growth on the 2022 Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program (ACAP), which is Alabama’s annual summative student assessment given in grades 2-8.
Every grade in K-12 saw improvement in scores on the ELA ACAP from 2021 to 2022, with the largest increase in 2nd grade whose proficiency increased from 43% to 49%.
The National Assessment of Education Progress, commonly referred to as NAEP (pronounced “nape”), is the only educational test that compares student performance across the country. In 2022, Alabama’s 4th grade NAEP math ranking improved from 52nd in the nation to 40th.. Alabama 4th grade ranking in reading increased from 49th in the nation in 2019 to 39th place in 2022. Alabama’s ranking for 8th grade mathematics improved from 52nd 2019 to 47th in 2022. Since 1992 Alabama’s 4th grade students have never been ranked in the top 40 nationally.
Our state’s national rankings in reading and math improved in relation to other states, but our nominal test scores were not significantly improved. In other words, our rankings improved in relation to other states because our students’ scores did not drop from prior years as much as other states did. That means that our students’ loss of learning was significantly lower than other state’s students.
Keeping students in school during COVID-19 is certainly one variable that helped Alabama hold its own during a dramatic national decline.
Kudos to our state’s leadership, starting with Governor Ivey, to make the tough decision to place our children’s education above the national hysteria about COVID. Our state’s leadership worked very hard to minimize the effect of COVID on our children’s loss of learning.
Alabamians should be proud that we held our own and did not experience as much COVID-19 learning loss as other states; however, our results should not be cause for us to become complacent or rest on our laurels.
The results from this year’s ACAP and NAEP are reason to double down and saddle up for the hard work that lays before us. We have a head start on many other states. Let’s keep going! We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it is a long tunnel.
The Alabama Workforce Council will continue to fall in beside Governor Ivey, Superintendent Eric Mackey, the Alabama Legislature, and the members of the Alabama State Board of Education to continue pushing for improvements in our children’s education because, as we all know—leadership matters!