Superintendent Eddie Tyler said the glowing report card Baldwin County Public Schools recently received from the state is the result of work begun back in 2015, when a task force of citizens and Baldwin officials began a focus on academics.
“Coming back as superintendent in 2015, the main focus from the task force at that time, and our board and County Commission, was academics leads,” Tyler said. “We have not backed off from that directive and what we feel like we need to do.”
In the previous year’s report, a handful of Baldwin schools received D’s and F’s, but on the latest report every school in the county received a C or better. The average across the system went up three points. One of the largest improvements came at Bay Minette Elementary, which jumped from 54 percent to 83 percent in one year’s time.
“It’s incredible we don’t have any D’s and F’s in there, and some of our schools made great strides this year,” School Board Commissioner Norma Lynch of Orange Beach said. “I think you have to step back and say teachers are doing an incredible job in the classroom and the focus on academics and the instructional coaches in those buildings to work with teachers and students. Just staying focused.”
Tyler said getting the teachers to support the new effort and methods was a key to the countywide success. Every school except two improved on scores. Foley Middle School stood pat, equaling its score of 74 percent from the previous year and Robertsdale Elementary slid back one point from 87 percent to 86 percent.
“We have put our teachers back in charge of instruction in the classroom,” Tyler said. “I want to say that the appreciation I have for our teachers for them to buy into this plan. We have veteran teachers that have been teaching a long time that have been used to a lot of things but bought into this academic plan and to bring the younger teachers along.”
Baldwin County Schools’ Academic Dean Joyce Woodburn said teachers responded well to a four-part plan aimed at improving learning and scores in county schools.
“Each of the four parts represents something that meets the needs of specific components in our school system,” Woodburn said. “For example, guided reading is an effort to help all students become increasingly literate. At the middle school and high school levels, it is an effort to focus on kids that are below grade level in reading. In the K-6 arena, we’re using guided reading for all of our students and moving toward the goal of balanced literacy.”
Another vital part of the plan was the introduction of curriculum leaders and other specialists to help teachers and students in the system.
“Curriculum leaders, reading coaches and instructional coaches are the people that are the conduit between this division and the schools, because now we have people we can pull in once a month and tell them ‘here’s what we’re doing,’” Woodburn said. “We’re all singing the same song now with a consistent plan throughout the district, with everyone on the same page.”