MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - There are 10 Montgomery Public Schools on the 2019 “failing schools” list recently released by the Alabama Department of Education. The list is compiled of the schools scoring in the bottom six percent for standardized testing across the state.
Montgomery Public Schools Chief Academic Officer Bernard Mitchell said high schools students take the ACT while K-8th grade students take a “scantron performance series” assessment.
“It’s unweighted achievement that determines failing schools, the bottom six percent in the state,” said Mitchell. “So, you will always have the bottom six percent.”
The department is required to publish the list under the Alabama Accountability Act. The law allows families whose schools are on the list to transfer to non-failing public schools or private schools and receive a tax credit to help pay for tuition.
This Year Compared to Last Year
MPS had 11 schools on last year’s list. The following schools that were on last year’s list, were not included in the bottom six percent this year: Carver High School, Fews Secondary Acceleration Academy (now McIntyre Comprehensive Academy), Highland Avenue Elementary, Lee High School and Park Crossing High School.
The following schools, that were not on last year’s list, were added this year: Chisholm Elementary, Highland Gardens Elementary, Johnson Elementary and Southlawn Middle School.
While MPS’s total number of schools in the bottom six percent only dropped by one, the shift in schools shows positive growth for traditional high schools. Last year’s list included all four traditional, non-magnet high schools. However, with Carver and Park Crossing coming off the list, there are only two.
MPS Compared to Other Large Systems
MPS is one of only seven systems in the state with more than 20,000 students. MPS, with about 29,000 students, had more schools on the list than similarly-sized systems like Baldwin County and Jefferson County. Baldwin County Schools has 31,000 students and no schools on the failing list. Jefferson County Schools has 36,000 students and one school on the list.
However, MPS had fewer schools on the list than Birmingham City Schools, which had 20 schools on the list and enrolls nearly 23,300 students.
Mobile County Schools, the state’s largest system with 55,000 students, has nine schools on the list.
Title I Schools
While the specific schools on the list shifted, what did not change is that all of the MPS schools in the state’s bottom six percent are Title I schools receiving federal funds to serve low-income students and families.
Lanier Conversion Charter School Plan
The list includes all four schools impacted by the Lanier Conversion Charter School plan, which was approved by the state superintendent in December. The plan targets Sidney Lanier High School, Bellingrath Middle School, E.D. Nixon Elementary School and Davis Elementary School. The charter plan aims to transition the schools into public charter schools over a five-year period.
The contract for the plan is still being drawn up and negotiated between the state, MPS and the Montgomery Education Foundation, the group that proposed the plan.
Lanier and Bellingrath have been on the list for the past three years. Davis and Nixon have been on the list for the past two years.
Results vs. Intervention Efforts
Mitchell said the testing to create the list is always done in the spring, the year before the list is out. He said this means the test for this year’s list was done before a number of efforts were made to improve learning throughout the district under the state’s intervention plan to target and improve student achievement.
“Everything after August and that we’re doing now will be on next year’s report card and next year’s failing schools list,” Mitchell said.
He said he expects the district to see improved results next year.
“We believe if we keep doing the things we’re doing now, we really believe the achievement level will change,” said Mitchell. “I’m excited to see what we’ve put in place this year. The results next year, I believe, will be drastically different.”
Mitchell said MPS is currently working to compile a list of schools that students at achieve “failing” school will have the option to transfer to. He said the list will be specific to each students zoning and available schools will be based on zoning and space in that school. Families with students at schools on the list will receive a letter detailing their options in the coming weeks.
Mitchell said, last year, 76 students transferred.
Tom Salter, communications director for MPS, said it is crucial that parents make sure MPS has their updated address for this communication to go smoothly.
If you have not updated the district, you are asked to contact the Office of Curriculum and Instruction.