HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The Alabama Department of Education has released its latest list of failing public schools, and three of them are in north Alabama.
The failing schools are all part of Huntsville City Schools. They are Mae Jemison High School, Lakewood Elementary School, and Ronald McNair Jr. High 7-8.
Generally, because of the Alabama Accountability Act, students at schools on the list are allowed to transfer to non-failing public or private schools and their families are eligible for a tax credit to help pay for tuition. But because of the Federal Segregation Order that hangs over Huntsville City Schools that process is more complicated. Attorneys for the school system tell WAFF, “the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education has to comply with the terms of the Federal Consent Order, which only prescribes a limited number of transfer options.”
Statewide, there were 76 schools on the list, up one from 2018. See the full list here.
Huntsville City Schools released the following statement:
The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) has just released the 2019 list of “failing” schools, as defined under the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) law passed by the State Legislature in 2013. The results are based on one standardized test taken on one day of the school year. The formula, as defined by the law, simply takes the bottom six percent to compile the list. Under the Alabama Accountability Act, the State Department of Education has little choice but to use the formula passed by the legislature to create a “failing” schools list and cannot use other data for its calculations.
This differs from the ALSDE Report Card which uses data that factors in academic achievement, academic growth, attendance, and graduation rate to develop a letter grade for each school. Because of the separate formulas, a school that did not receive an “F” on the state report card can potentially end up on the Alabama Accountability Act list of “failing” schools. The Huntsville City District has three schools, Jemison High, McNair Junior High, and Lakewood Elementary on the list, compared to nine schools just a few years ago.
Huntsville City Schools, like many other districts, still maintains that the Alabama Accountability Act does not give parents a true representation of how their school is performing, nor does it serve in the best educational needs of the students. Educators from around the state are quick to point out that a single standardized test cannot represent the programs and variety of opportunities that a school or district provides for its students.
Huntsville City Schools Superintendent Christie Finley points out that the district has “an overall graduation rate of 90% and our graduating seniors each year have received an average of over $51 million in scholarships offers. Huntsville City Schools has several nationally recognized college and career programs, STEM education in all of our schools along with the highest availability of Pre-K classes in the state.” Finley added the three schools on the state’s new AAA list, Jemison, McNair, and Lakewood, all indicated significant growth in reading and math on the recently released ALSDE report card. Finley added that “we understand there are areas of real improvements and will continue to focus every day on looking at the needs of all students to provide the best opportunity for achievement.”
In 2013, the law started out as the Alabama Flexibility Act with the purpose of giving school districts more ability to use innovative methods in the classroom and included input from educators from across the state. In a single afternoon, the legislation was changed into the Alabama Accountability Act, without any prior notification or input from educators, the public or the media. The Accountability Act added 20 additional pages to the existing document, and in a few short hours, the new bill was put up for a vote and quickly approved.