The latest list of failing schools has been released by the Alabama Department of Education, and families of children who attend one of the schools on the list have the right to transfer their child to another public school or receive a tax credit in order to help pay for private school.
The total this year reached 66 schools, down from 76 last year and 78 in 2013. Parents who choose to transfer their child out of a failing school qualify for a tax credit of up to 80% of the state's per-student cost, which reached $3,650 this year.
While four schools in the state came off the list altogether this year, all from Huntsville, six others were closed or changed grades, such as going from just a middle school to incorporating kindergarten through eighth grade students, writes Challen Stephens for AL.com.
According to state law, two lists are prepared. One list includes all schools eligible for a "school improvement grant" given out by the U.S. Department of Education, while the second is a listing of schools who have tested in the bottom 6% of the state in terms of reading and math for three of the last six years.
Results from the Alabama Reading and Math Test are used by the state to decide while schools fall into the category of "failing." Last year's list used results from the ARMT, the Alabama Alternate Assessment and the Alabama High School Graduation Exam.
Department officials said results from the ACT standardized tests were not used because there was no baseline for comparison available.
"For consistency and comparability during an assessment transition, using the ARMT over a two year period is the only fair comparison measure and neutralizes any negative impact," state schools Superintendent Tommy Bice said in a prepared statement. "Legislative leadership has asked for input on possible revisions to the AAA formula, and it is our hope that any potential revisions will more accurately credit schools which are showing gains."
Any school on the failing list must notify parents about their ability to transfer their students by February 13 this year. Those who would like to take advantage must return a student transfer form by May 1 in order to take part in the 2015-16 school year in a new school.
Meanwhile, Republicans are looking to bring charter schools to the state through a charter school bill, at least on a limited basis, writes Brian Lyman for The Montgomery Advertiser.
"We believe in school choice," Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said in his office. "We believe parents know what's best for their children. We also think it's a way to put pressure on systems we've given a good bit flexibility to use that flexibility."
While legislation has not been finalized, estimates are that the number of charter schools in the state would be limited to about 10 schools, at least for the first year.
The state is also looking to make it easier for effective out-of-state teachers to come teach by easing requirements for teaching candidates. Currently, teachers who reside outside of Alabama must meet state requirements for certification even if they hold a valid license in their home state. The state has now changed these requirements to allow candidates to receive certification in Alabama if they are certified in their home state and have passed that state's certification exam and have professional work experience.