‘Communities need to get involved’: Central Alabama teacher’s union president reacts to failing schools list

Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 8:49 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Alabama State Department of Education has released its list of failing schools for 2022, as required by the Alabama Accountability Act.

79 schools are listed, which is up from the 75 released in 2019. Several school districts in Central Alabama are listed: 13 Birmingham City Schools, five Jefferson County Schools, three Tuscaloosa City Schools, and two Bessemer City Schools.

Most know school systems across the country were suffering during the pandemic. That’s why the president of a local teacher’s union is not surprised by the list.

“No one should be shocked because of everything that we’ve been going through the last 2.5 years,” said Erika Hughes. “Education has taken a toll in all categories.”

Erika Hughes with Central Alabama AFT (American Federation of Teachers) says when COVID-19 hit several years ago, school systems didn’t have efficient plans in place so teachers and students were trying to continue classroom learning without the classroom.

“It was just a lack of planning and that has hurt education from the beginning,” she added. “We literally had to develop a plan as we were flying the plane.”

Now that they are back in person, Hughes says many teachers are trying to play catch up while simultaneously teaching new material which is difficult. With a new list out, Hughes is worried for the teachers.

“My biggest fear is they’re just going to put more on the teachers and on support staff,” said Hughes. “You know, that’s the answer to everything is just put more pressure on the teachers and on support staff and give them more things to do. That is not the answer!”

Hughes is encouraging superintendents and school board members to spend time in the schools and classrooms to see what teachers are dealing with right now.

“They may come up with a plan that absolutely looks amazing on paper and the problem is it doesn’t look that way in the school system,” she explains.

Hughes says fixing the learning loss issue shouldn’t fall solely on teachers. Instead, she believes it’s a group effort and communities and parents need to also get involved.

She’s encouraging families to get their kids involved in the after-school tutoring programs. Hughes also said catching up these students may require districts to hire more support staff in the schools that can help with those struggling in reading and math.

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