By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Alabama State Board of Education and Alabama Department of Education will spend the next two months creating a strategic plan to better organize the department and improve Alabama’s K-12 education system.
The plan is the result of a recently released 168-page report that recommends a major overhaul and shift of operations within ALSDE.
Lawmakers approved an appropriation of $750,000 in last year’s education trust fund budget to conduct this evaluation by a Boston-based consultant.
The head authors of that report told Alabama state school board members on Thursday they hope to have an implementation plan ready by the end of June.
The report, created by the Public Consulting Group, centers around five key recommendations and 46 additional recommendations on how to better organize and execute the duties of the ALSDE.
Anna d’Entremont is one of the main authors of the report. On Thursday during an online State Board of Education meeting, she told members the report is centered around the idea of the ALSDE taking the lead on education reform in the state.
“The belief that the ALSDE really needs to own education reform,” d’Entremount said. “A full ownership of what educational improvement looks like for the state of Alabama.”
The first of PCG’s five main recommendations is for the ALSDE to take full ownership and accountability for student progress in the state.
PCG has been contracted to continue work with state leaders and in the next two months will be helping board members in creating the implementation plan.
“One of the roles I think we can play best is kind of this orchestrator role of making sure things are in line and making sure things are coherent and connected,” said David Driscoll, a former commissioner of education for Massachusetts and a lead team member for PCG.
The other recommendations include creating the strategy to action plan, focus first on a few clear priorities, hold schools and districts accountable and to significantly reorganize the ALSDE internally.
The executive summary of the report suggests ideas like setting up regional or satellite offices and reworking the entire internal functions of the ALSDE.
The report also notes that Alabama’s system of funding education does not differentiate based on student need or poverty level. The report recommends reviewing the impact of adopting a weighted student-based funding model.
State Superintendent Eric Mackey said on Thursday that they will be having weekly meetings with PCG to work on creating the strategy plan. A comment from Mackey about the report was not made immediately available Thursday evening.
State board member Stephanie Bell of Montgomery, expressed concern during Thursday’s meeting over the role of the SBOE in creating education policy and their accountability in Alabama’s education system being diminished.
“Board members want to make a difference, and there has been many obstacles in the way, and I think that’s why we see poor results overall,” Bell said.
She said recent attempts by the Alabama Legislature to change the elected school board into an appointed board has created an “unproductive” environment and the board should be allowed to help create policy and not “just fill in the blanks.”
Driscoll said he sees the role of the state board as being a crucial one in working collaboratively with other state leaders and state branches in order to implement the strategy plan.
“We think the board plays a huge role, because particularly where you’re elected, you really represent what the department is trying to do and help shape it,” Driscoll said.
The Alabama Association of School Boards Executive Director Sally Smith told ADN she thinks the development of this strategic plan by the board is a great opportunity to promote progress in Alabama schools.
“It also provides the state board with an opportunity to work directly with the legislature to move education forward with one unified vision,” Smith said. “School leaders hope the study, coupled with the board’s development of a strategic plan, is a not-to-be missed opportunity to unify forces and focus energy in a singular direction.”