Deputy State Superintendent Sherrill Parris said Thursday the state plans to submit the request by early September and expects an answer by December. She's optimistic Alabama will receive a waiver because more than half the states already have. Alabama is basing its request on the state's development of a student achievement plant that Alabama officials say is better than the 2001 federal law.
Parris talked about the waiver application Thursday as the state prepares to release results on Aug. 9 about how many Alabama schools made adequately yearly progress toward reaching proficiency in 2014. The U.S. Department of Education has already agreed not to increase the requirements from 2011 to 2012 to determine whether schools made adequately yearly progress. If Alabama gets its waiver, the Aug. 9 announcement could be the final year when scores of adequate yearly progress are announced in Alabama.
"We hope so," Parris said.
Last year, more than 72 percent of Alabama's schools made adequately yearly progress toward all students achieving proficiency in math and science. That was down from 75 percent in 2010. Normally, making adequate yearly progress gets harder each year, with more students having to pass tests at the end of the year. With the 2012 scores being frozen at 2011 levels, education officials expect Alabama's results for most school systems to be about the same or slightly improved from last year.
Some school systems have already released their results before the state numbers are out. For instance, Tuscaloosa city schools announced that its three high schools did not make adequate yearly progress, which was the same as last year. Most other Tuscaloosa schools did achieve the goal.
Parris and Julie Hannah, director of the state's Office of Student Learning, said they don't like No Child Left Behind because the measurement of whether schools are moving toward 100 proficient in math and reading is based largely on end-of-the-year tests taken by students. They said Alabama's new Plan 2020, developed under new state Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice, involves more methods of measuring student performance. It also provides new techniques for teachers to help students who need assistance, and it includes more emphasis on the practical application of knowledge rather than reciting facts.
For instance, no longer will students simply calculate the area of a rectangle. Instead, the students will determine how many square feet are in a rectangular room. Then they will have the price per square foot of carpet and tile, and they will have to calculate how much it will cost them to cover the floor with each product. The educators said that transforms a math lesson into something that is relevant to everyday life.
They said the goal of the changes is to have every high school student graduate ready to get a job or ready for the first year at a university, community college or technical school without taking remedial courses.
Parris said Alabama will keep pursuing Plan 2020 even if it doesn't get a waiver from No Child Left Behind.