Schools receive passing grade

Published 7:54 am Monday, June 24, 2013

The Alabama State Board of Education on Tuesday released its list of “failing schools” according to the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013.

Of the 78 schools listed, none were from Butler County.

The Alabama Accountability Act defines a “failing school” as one listed as low-performing in the state’s most recent school improvement grant application or has been in the bottom 6 percent of state standardized tests in reading and math for three or more times during the last six years.

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State Superintendent Tommy Bice said on Tuesday that the list included schools that have shown a steady decline and schools that have shown improvement.

“It’s really a continuum of schools. We have schools on the list that have actually shown a negative trajectory over the last six years — which are the schools that we should be the most concerned about and we are,” Bice said. “You are also going to see on the list some schools that have shown unbelievable growth over the last six years that are actually models for what school improvement can look like.”

Bice urged those viewing the list to taken into account that a number of the schools have shown improvement. Marked improvement is not enough to keep a school off the list however.

“Legally, I’m unable to remove a school from list although they’ve shown improvement,” Bice said.

Bice said the majority of the schools on the list serve high-poverty areas.

“Almost all of the schools on the list are Title I schools that have high numbers of free and reduced lunch and are typically in school systems that have very little local funding,” Bice said.

Two such schools are Lowndes County Middle School and Hayneville Middle School, which were included on the list.

Under the Alabama Accountability Act, parents who want to remove their children from a school on the failing schools list and send them to better ones can receive tax credits worth about $3,500 per year.

Parents must notify schools by August 1 if they plan to transfer their children. Parents will be allowed to file for the credits during tax season next year.

As Bice was concluding his remarks Tuesday morning, the Department of Revenue released a statement saying that students currently enrolled in private schools — even those who were zoned for schools that reached the failing list — would not qualify for the tax credits.

The Department of Revenue cited language in the act that said it was intended for students in failing schools and to offset the cost of transferring out of those schools.

“The language of the (Alabama Accountability Act), when read in its entirety, clearly supports concluding that parents of current private school students are not eligible for the credit,” the statement from Revenue said.