More than 50 schools across Alabama are considered “failing” schools, according to recent information compiled by the Alabama Department of Education (ALSDE).
This week, the ALSDE disclosed its list of failing schools, which are defined by the Alabama Accountability Act (AAA) of 2013 to be “labeled as persistently low-performing by the State Department of Education” or having scored in the bottom 6 percent on standardized state reading and math assessments three or more times during the last six years.
For Mobile County, Augusta Evans School, Jeremiah A. Denton Middle School, Booker T. Washington Middle School, Mae Eanes Middle School, Mobile County Training Middle School and CL Scarborough Middle School are all named as failing schools.
The state released two lists in accordance with the law, one (Section 4(3)i of ACT 2013-265) including those schools eligible for the United States Department of Education School Improvement Grant and the second (Section 4(3)iii of ACT 2013-265) to include those in the bottom 6 percent of test scores.
According to a memorandum sent by State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice to city and county superintendents, the determinations were based on the 2013 scores from the Alabama Reading and Math Test+ (ARMT+), Alabama Alternative Assessment and the Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE) as the state continues to transition to the new ACT Aspire and ACT suite of assessments and accompanying accountability system.
Additionally, “eligibility for tax credit remains for a student who transferred under a previously designated school until the highest grade in which a student would have otherwise remained at that school,” the memorandum reads.
Under the law, parents who have children enrolled in a failing school can transfer their students to another public school or private school while receiving an income tax credit. According to Jesse McDaniel, UniServ Director of the Alabama Education Association in Mobile, the state can reimburse families up to the maximum credit amount of about $3,600.
“Unfortunately, we will never be able to eliminate failing schools under the law because the law defines failing schools in the bottom 6 percent on certain test scores,” he said. “There will always be a bottom 6 percent no matter how well the school performs.”
Less than 50 Mobile County Public School System students transferred schools last year and each school has an improvement plan based on each school’s individual needs, said Rena Philips, MCPSS supervisor of marketing and partnerships, citing after-school programs atScarborough Middle School and Jeremiah A. Denton Middle School aimed toward students, who are at risk of dropping out.
Further, the MCPSS schools recently named as “failing” by the state were the same schools on last year’s list, Philips said. She added that students at Augusta Evans School are “100 percent special ed students” and that all six schools are being monitored and supported by the school system’s central office.
Schools removed from the list based on the AAA formula and no longer designated as a failing school are Lafayette Eastside Elementary School in Chambers County, Pickens County High School in Pickens County, Martin Luther King. Jr. Elementary School in Huntsville City and Westlawn Middle School in Tuscaloosa County.
Further, John Essex High School in Marengo County, Martha Gaskins Middle School in Birmingham, Forest Hills Middle School in Fairfield and Chapman, Davis Hills and Edward White middle schools in Huntsville were officially removed from the list due to “school closure.”
All institutions named as a failing school are required by the AAA to notify parents of their transfer options by Feb. 13. The deadline for parents to return a student transfer form to their local school system for the 2015-2016 school year is May 1.
“We’re in the process of writing and sending out letters to all the parents of students in those schools,” Philips said.
She noted the letters will go over the transfer process and provide parents with two schools — Pillans Middle School and Hankins Middle School — that have space for new students.
Updated at 5:20 p.m. to include comments from Rena Philips, MCPSS supervisor of marketing and partnerships.