The newest list of Alabama’s failing schools, the first in a series of accountability measures expected in the coming week, is up.
This year, there are 79 schools in 31 school districts on the list. There were 74 schools in 29 districts on the list the last time it was published in 2019. Accountability requirements, including federal and state report card achievement measures, were paused for 2020 and 2021.
Montgomery County has the most schools on the list, with 14, up from 11 in 2019. Birmingham City has the second highest number of schools, 13, down from 16 in 2019. Mobile County has eight, one more than previously, and Huntsville City has one, down from two in 2019. Jefferson County has five, up from one in 2019.
Fifty-nine of the schools were also on the previous list, and four of those have been on the failing list every year since 2013, the year the first list was published:
- Bellingrath Middle School in Montgomery,
- Capitol Heights Middle School in Montgomery,
- Bullock County High School in Bullock County, and
- Hayes K-8 in Birmingham.
Education officials, including Gov. Kay Ivey, have questioned the use of the term “failing” to label the schools, but lawmakers have not taken any steps to change the term.
See the full list and how many times the school has been on the failing list since 2013 at the bottom of the article.
The Alabama Accountability Act, passed in 2013, requires the bottom 6% of schools, as measured by the percentage of students who are proficient on standardized tests taken the previous spring, to be labeled as “failing.”
Students in failing schools must be notified and given a list of choices for the 2023-24 school year: stay in the school, transfer to a non-failing school within the same school district (transportation must be provided for the district), transfer to a neighboring public school district (if they’ll accept the student), or enroll in a private or home school.
To help students leave failing schools, state law allows parents a credit against their income tax for the cost to move the student along with the cost of tuition, up to 80% of what the state pays to educate the student in a public school.
If a student is enrolled in and then leaves a “failing” school for a private school and the parent of the student is eligible for an claims a tax credit, 20% of the state funding for that student is then allocated to the “failing” public school the following year. That doesn’t amount to much, though, because so few parents are eligible to claim the credit.
For students who are in families with low income who choose a private school, state law allows nonprofit organizations to provide scholarships to pay the cost of the private school. They’re commonly referred to as tax-credit scholarships because those scholarship funds come from donors who can take a credit against their income tax liability for the amount of their donation, up to a limit defined by law.
Originally billed as a way to help students escape failing public schools, state lawmakers re-branded the Alabama Accountability Act as a school choice program in 2015, more accurately matching how the program is being used. Each year, only about a third of recipients have been zoned to attend a currently-labeled “failing” school, records show.
Federal and state report cards are expected to be released next week, according to State Superintendent Eric Mackey, along with a new list of schools targeted for support and improvement through the federal Every Student Succeeds Act law.