Education report shows that Alabama is "Moving Ahead"

MONTGOMERY, AL - Education in Alabama is moving forward and making significant strides according to a national published report. The Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), a consortium of 16 member states from Texas to Delaware, that works to improve pre-K-12 and higher education across the region, just released its 2010 Progress Report on the Challenge to Lead Goals for Education.

Of the goals outlined for the SREB Challenge to Lead Initiative, ensuring readiness for learning throughout school, raising achievement and closing gaps among subgroups, preparing all students for college and careers, and improving college completion, are key (see detailed information on each of the all encompassing 12 SREB goals below). The report shows that Alabama has reached impressive milestones in several areas that sets the state apart from other SREB states, and in several instances – the entire country. Alabama's statewide public pre kindergarten program was one of only two in the nation to meet all 10 nationally recognized standards of quality.

In 2003, the achievement gap in early grades (fourth-grade level reading) between Alabama students and the rest of the nation was 10 percent. By 2009, that gap had narrowed to 4%. In that same time, the gap between Alabama and other SREB states narrowed from 8 percent in 2003 to 2% in 2009. The progress shown in Alabama's black students taking the National Assessment of Educational Proficiency (NAEP) test shows a 13 percent increase in reading since 2003.

Similar reading results were achieved by Alabama's poorest students, as low-income students exhibited a gain of 12 percent, narrowing the achievement gap between other students by 5 percent, between 2003 and 2009. These are particularly significant strides as Alabama's percentage of students living in low-income household climbed from 48 percent in 1999, to 58 percent in 2009. Other student achievement related accomplishments include: Alabama's recent high school graduates enrolled in college at a higher rate than their U.S. peers, Alabama's composite ACT score improved from 1999 to 2009, and NAEP scores indicate Alabama's black students are narrowing the achievement gap in Reading (fourth-graders) and in Math (eighth-graders).

State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton said the 2010 SREB Progress Report is further indication that Alabama is a major contributor to the overall process of education reform. Although there is room for improvement, Morton said, without fail, the state's course has shown steady growth in regards to student achievement and the policies that support quality education.

"In the face of some of the most difficult economic circumstances this state has ever seen, we continue to show progress. Despite back-to-back years of proration and the scaling back of resources, our educators, administrators, parents, and students continue to put their best efforts forward and their hard work is yielding results," Morton said. "One day at a time, we must continue to pay attention to Alabama's incremental forward motion. We knew this was a marathon – not a sprint. But we're keeping the pace and in some instances outpacing our peers. As long as we keep moving forward, as much and as fast as we can, we can look forward to tomorrow."

Aside from matters of student achievement, the report also shows Alabama's strengths in being competitive in the marketplace with teacher incentives and as a leader in school leadership policies.

Alabama's beginning teacher salary eclipsed all bordering states. The average salary for a beginning teacher in Alabama in 2008 was higher than the averages in all neighboring states and higher than the median in the nation and the region. Also, based on SREB analysis, Alabama policies received full points for its policies that addressed leadership standards, preparation program redesign, field-based experiences for leader candidates and leader licensure. Alabama's leadership standards are a model for the region.

Adopted by a committee of the region's leaders in 2002, the SREB Challenge to Lead Goals for Education set an ambitious agenda for the region: to improve public education in every member state at every level and to lead the nation in educational progress. The following are the Challenge to Lead Goals for Education as set forth by SREB states:

3. Achievement in the middle grades for all groups of students exceeds national averages and performance gaps are closed.
Keeping Middle Grades Students on the Path to Success in High School
Getting the Mission Right in the Middle Grades

4. All young adults have a high school diploma — or, if not, pass the GED tests.
Gaining Ground on High School Graduation Rates in SREB States: Milestones and GuidepostsGaining Ground Update: Getting Serious About High School Graduation

5. All recent high school graduates have solid academic preparation and are ready for post secondary
education and a career.
Getting Students Ready for College and Careers

6. Adults who are not high school graduates participate in literacy and job-skills training and
further education.
Investing Wisely in Adult Learning is Key to State Prosperity

7. The percentage of adults who earn post secondary degrees or technical certificates exceeds national averages.
Creating College Opportunity for All: Prepared Students and Affordable Colleges

8. Every school has higher student performance and meets state academic standards for all students each year.
Focusing on Student Performance Through Accountability

9. Every school has leadership that results in improved student performance — and leadership begins
with an effective school principal.
Schools Need Good Leaders Now: State Progress in Creating a Learning-Centered School Leadership System
Progress Being Made in Getting a Quality Leader in Every School

10. Every student is taught by qualified teachers.
Resolve and Resources to Get a Qualified Teacher in Every Classroom

11. The quality of colleges and universities is regularly assessed and funding is targeted to
quality, efficiency and state needs.
Holding Colleges and Universities Accountable for Meeting State Needs

12. The state places a high priority on an education system of schools, colleges and universities that is
From Goals to Results: Improving Education System Accountability