Supporting Equity in Alabama
September 06, 2018 11:31 am
In the fall of 2017, advocates from A+ Education Partnership, a nonprofit education policy and practice organization in Alabama, contacted the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) for help in ensuring that the state’s plan for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) would hold schools accountable for the performance of historically underserved students.
At the request of the state’s interim superintendent, advocates from A+ Education Partnership and organizations representing the state’s school board members, district superintendents, principals, and teachers came together to develop a proposed accountability system that would satisfy ESSA’s requirements and a state law calling for a rating system that assigns letter grades to schools based on their performance. Advocates from A+ Education Partnership wanted to ensure that the state’s accountability and school rating systems would reflect the performance of individual student subgroups sufficiently, so they contacted All4Ed for an assessment of the state’s proposed ESSA plan and examples of best practices from other states.
“We have worked with All4Ed on and off over the years … and it was clear that All4Ed had a wealth of knowledge about ESSA and could help us move forward,” explains Thomas Rains, vice president for operations and policy at A+ Education Partnership.
“Having an organization we could turn to that has been watching ESSA closely, both at the federal level and looking at the state plans, gave us some guidance on where we needed to go.”
All4Ed’s analysis of Alabama’s draft ESSA implementation plan revealed that the performance of student subgroups would have no independent effect on school ratings. That means an Alabama school could receive a top letter-grade rating overall even if individual groups of students performed poorly. Armed with this analysis, Rains and fellow advocates brought the issue to the attention of the full working group and a representative of the interim superintendent.
“The research [All4Ed provided] from other states helped us hold the line for accountability,” says Rains. “We are very grateful for All4Ed’s help and look forward to working with them again in the future.”
Pictured above: Staff and board members from A+ Education Partnership meet with students in Alabama’s public schools. Photos provided by A+ Education Partnership.
Kristen Loschert is editorial director at All4Ed.