Alabama superintendent says state intervention to make Montgomery into ‘shining example’

Jan 12, 2017 by

Trisha Powell Crain –

Alabama superintendent Michael Sentance said his primary goal in taking over the Montgomery school system is to improve academic performance.

Most state interventions are done due to financial reasons, and while the state resolution suggests there are also financial concerns, it is clear Sentance is most concerned about “protracted underperformance” and chronically low student achievement.

While Montgomery routinely sees multiple schools land on annual warning lists for low reading and math scores, it is not necessarily the lowest performing system in the state. Birmingham City Schools saw more schools labeled as “failing” by the state department today. And recent state report cards returned lower overall results and lower average achievement scores for several rural systems.

When asked if his focus on academics should send signals to other chronically underperforming schools, Sentance said, “Everything I have talked about since the first day I’ve been in Alabama has been about raising achievement of all students, and this is just part of that conversation.”

The state board of education today voted unanimously to give Sentance the go-ahead to take first official steps in the process in Montgomery.

Sentance told board members he chose Montgomery because it is Alabama’s capital, and a capital city’s public education system should be a “shining example” of what public education can be in a state.

Sentance said state board members Stephanie Bell, R-District 3, and Ella Bell, D-District 5, both live in Montgomery and approached him separately about doing something to improve Montgomery’s schools.

Ella Bell has been on the state board since 2000 and said, “This is the first time that the state of Alabama has ever—ever—reached out to bring our children of color, our poor white children, up to a level of prominence with all the other school children in this state.”

Stephanie Bell has lived in Montgomery for more than 50 years, served on the state board since 1996 and attended public schools. “I am 100 percent committed to making this happen,” Bell said, adding she is excited that local school officials are willing to work together with state education officials.

Sentance’s remarks focused exclusively on improving student achievement. Most state interventions in recent years, in systems such as Birmingham, have been based on financial reasons or employee issues, making this intervention unique.

When asked if he is looking at any other school districts with low academic performance, Sentance said he is focused on Montgomery for now.

Ten of Montgomery’s schools are on the newest failing public school list, including six that made the list last year. While none of the nine magnet schools made the list, all four non-magnet high schools did. Here are the ten schools on the new list of failing schools.

  • Bellingrath Middle School
  • Capitol Heights Middle School
  • Carver Senior High School
  • Chisholm Elementary School
  • Fews Secondary Acceleration Academy
  • Jefferson Davis High School
  • Johnson Elementary School
  • Lanier Senior High School
  • Lee High School
  • Southlawn Middle School

Alabama releases new list of failing schools

Alabama releases new list of failing schools

The Alabama Department of Education today released a new list of 75 public schools labeled as failing.

After the board’s work session, Sentance acknowledged it will take hard work to improve Montgomery’s schools. “We’re trying to make these schools good,” Sentance said. “We’re trying to raise everybody in the state and at the same time focus on these particular schools and try to elevate the performance there to meet a higher set of expectations.”

Source: Alabama superintendent says state intervention to make Montgomery into ‘shining example’ |

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