Schools miss ‘failing’ grade

Published 2:00 am Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Despite early reports that at least one Escambia County school might be named on the list of schools deemed as “failing” under the new Alabama Accountability Act, not one of the 78 schools was  on the official list released by the Alabama State Department of Education Tuesday.
State school officials said the list includes schools performing in the bottom 6 percent statewide in at least three of the past six years. Scores from the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test, graduation rates and graduation exam result were used in the calculations.
Escambia County Superintendent Randall Little said he was not surprised to see Escambia County schools absent from Tuesday’s list of “underperforming schools.”
“I’m not really surprised because I have studied the law pretty well and have been to a lot of meetings on it,” Little said. “The state department was obviously going to set the parameters for what was a failing school. We knew what the data looked like.”
Although Escambia County High School in Atmore is in its sixth year of “school improvement,” a term used since the inception of No Child Left Behind in 2001, the school has made improvements in each of those years, Little said.
The controversial Accountability Act allows parents in  failing school distircts to get a tax credit to send their children to private schools. The Alabama Department of Revenue says only parents whose students will be new to private schools will get the tax credit; not those with students already in private school.
“I’m definitely elated,” Little said. “Now we can focus our resources on the problems we need to confront, such as the drop out rate and the graduation rate.”
Both issues, Little said, are problems that must be addressed county-wide.
The Accountability Act’s passage created controversy after Republican lawmakers made heavy revisions to a school flexibility bill to get the tax credit passed.
Public school officials across the state — including State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice — were opposed to the tax credit.
On Tuesday, Bice pointed out that he has no legal authority to take schools off the list — and he said the list includes schools that have already been showing vast improvement.
“There are schools on this list that have shown unbelievable growth,” he said. “They are models.”

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