Alabama schools to get first report cards in a decade next month

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( — After a decade without them, school report cards will be issued in December. And for the first time ever, schools will be given a letter grade.

Under development for five years, school report cards will contain information on how well students are learning, overall achievement in math and reading, graduation rates, and whether a school is struggling with getting kids to attend school.

State officials released preliminary report cards online last year showing achievement-based information, but without letter grades attached.

The law requiring schools to be given letter grades was passed in 2012, and its sponsor, Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, is looking forward to the release.

Over the past five years, Collins has worked on multiple task forces to work out the details and has kept a positive outlook despite the length of time it has taken to decide on a final format.

"My patience comes from the fact that I truly wanted to get it right, not just get it done," Collins said.

Collins said she recently met with state education officials and is pleased with the information included on the report card.

State officials have released no prototypes of what the report card will look like, but have said it will be in an online dashboard format.

The state report card for 2016-2017 will contain only the indicators required in state law, and the report card containing those required by federal law will be published separately.

Education officials planned to keep the state and federal report cards separate, but interim state superintendent Dr. Ed Richardson nixed that idea, saying it's too confusing to have two different report cards.

Richardson told local superintendents in a memo dated Nov. 9 that future report cards, beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, will contain both state and federally-required information. Superintendents will get a look at what the unified report card will look like not later than the end of December.

The last time Alabama issued school report cards was for the 2006-2007 school year. Those report cards met both state and federal requirements under the No Child Left Behind law.

At that time, the report cards were being printed and shipped to schools across the state, and costs were mounting.

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