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At Your School: State Superintendent not against dropping AMSTI and ARI

Former Teacher of the Year reacts to plans to cut science & reading initiatives
Updated: Feb. 17, 2017 at 4:14 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Get ready for change in education in Alabama.

State Schools Superintendent Michael Sentance pretty much made it clear sacred cows like the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) and Alabama Science Math Technology Initiative (AMSTI) are not beyond getting rid of.

The governor even proposed cutting back on the high school equivalent Alabama Science in Motion (ASIM).

For years, they stood out like beacons to the rest of the country that Alabama knew what it took to move students forward. Other states sent their school representatives to Alabama to model these hands-on programs.

Still, in the final analysis over the years through budget cuts and the like, Alabama never fully funded these programs that were proven to work.

During a work session of the Alabama Board of Education, Sentance went over numbers of student achievement saying while these programs worked in the past, we're not seeing the academic pay off now.

A board member chimed in saying that's because we've diluted the reading initiative program, taking away reading coaches leaving pretty much a shell of the original program. So, no wonder students are not getting the same results.

"If we don't start to move away from the current model, we will continue to get the same results. My idea would be that we phase this in over three years in small amounts," Sentance said.

This being a new system where he would set up centers for math, science and reading by partnering with area colleges and universities.

"In that time, there would be reductions in current allocations for AMSTI and ARI.  We don't have enough money in this state to do this independently.  I can't do this by taking money away from the education trust fund or other areas because our classrooms need this," Sentance went on to say

Former Alabama Teacher of the Year Jennifer Brown, a science teacher, is worried that someone schools in the poorest systems won't get what they need. She took us to Melissa Do who teaches 65 physics students each day and that's along with her math classes as well.

Science in Motion delivers experiments and sets them up with costly equipment that even more affluent systems can't afford to buy on their own.

Like machines that allow students to extract DNA to figure cancer risks among family members.

"These are resources that we cannot do away with. So, any plan and idea that cuts science in motion and or AMSTI. I am going to be against and I speak for most teachers. Principals, parents and superintendents," Brown said.

Admittedly, it's early. Sentance has yet to really roll out his plan for board members to vote up or down. But he says he needs to do it quickly this year in order to avoid the politics of a state election year in 2018.

Brown, who also serves on the state science strategic plan committee, is critical of why the state doesn't fully fund the programs it knows will work and really took issue with comments from Governor Robert Bentley saying education "sucks" in Alabama.

She won't even repeat the words he's said. It's worth noting she invited the governor to her classroom and he has yet to show up.

Still, Brown says she'll keep an open mind.

"I want to hear more, but we can't do away with AMSTI and Alabama Science in Motion," Brown explained.

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