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Alabama Will Get A New List of "Failing" Schools This Fall

By: AL.com
By: AL.com

Alabama will be facing a new list of "failing" schools before the year is out, as the test scores from last spring are due to be released some time this fall.

The new round of test data will cause the state to recalculate the scores that led to the list of failing schools.

Parents at any newly failing schools will be eligible for a $3,500 tax credit to help pay for private school in the spring.

Malissa Valdes-Hubert, spokesperson with the Alabama Department of Education, said the latest scores will be released some time before January. She said parents will have until January 1 to notify schools of the intention to transfer based on the new failing list.

But don't expect massive change. By and large, "failing" schools will stay "failing."

It's impossible to say if the state list will grow much longer. The state has not released the scores of non-failing schools, despite requests, so no one can say how many schools ended one step from "failing."

The state did release the data for the "failing" schools, and that shows that most are trapped no matter the test results this fall. As they say in football, only eight Alabama schools control their own destiny.

GOP lawmakers through the Alabama Accountability Act chose to label as failing any school testing in the bottom six percent in reading and math at least three times over the most recent six years. That six-year window kills mobility.

Just eight schools have enough successful years behind them to have a shot at coming off the list at the next round of testing data.

Those are Samson Middle in Geneva County, Brighton Middle in Jefferson County, Floyd Elementary in Montgomery, Robinson Elementary and Arrington Middle in Birmingham, Ed White Middle in Huntsville, Zora Ellis Junior High in Talladega and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Tuscaloosa.

In all, the state labeled 72 schools as "failing" for not meeting the testing standard. A third of those missed the mark for six straight years. That means they have no success to build on and no shot. Those schools will remain as "failing" for at least four consecutive years no matter how well they score this fall.

In years' past, the state released test results in the summer.

The test data used to be required to inform parents of the option to transfer out of low-performing Title 1 schools as stipulated under No Child Left Behind. The option applied only to transfers within the same school system, and did not involve private schools or state tax credits.

Alabama has since received a waiver allowing the state to set aside testing standards of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. This year the state has opted to release scores from the spring exams as they become ready in September or October, said Valdes-Hubert. She said the scores will be uploaded online with little ceremony, unlike in years past.

The Alabama Accountability Act called for immediate creation of a "failing" list upon passage of the act. So the current list was created with already old scores from the spring of 2012 and stretched back to scores from the spring of 2007. The six-year window will advance to 2008-2013 this fall.

Meanwhile, 14 schools will remain on the state list indefinitely because they also met a second definition of "failing."

These schools were tagged as "failing" because of their inclusion on a 2011 eligibility list for federal School Improvement Grant. (Eight of those 14 schools were failing by both definitions and appear on both lists.) The 14 don't change in status, by law, until there is a new grant application. State officials say they can't predict when that will be.


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