The Alabama Department of Education released school system report cards Thursday, issuing letter grades that assess school performance. Those grades factor in things like test results, graduation rates and attendance.
Grades varied for Birmingham-area school systems. City school systems in Birmingham, Bessemer, Tarrant, Midfield and Fairfield all received Ds. Shelby County received a B, and Jefferson County scored a C. The Homewood, Hoover, Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills and Mountain Brook systems all received As.
All of the local school systems with low report card grades had chronic absenteeism. In Bessemer, 21 percent of the students were absent at least 15 days during the school year. In Homewood, a similar-sized system, only 7.6 percent of the students had chronic absenteeism.
Birmingham Superintendent Lisa Herring discussed the report cards at a morning press conference, joined by Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, the school board and system leaders.
“We have strategic, intentional work to do to drive achievement for every school and every child in our organization,” she said. The grades are a benchmark, she said. “It is not an indicator of where we will remain.”
The ACT Aspire test, used last spring to help determine whether Alabama schools made the grade, will no longer be the measuring stick to determine the state’s grading system.
In July, the state board of education ended its contract with Aspire for testing students in 10th grade, elementary and middle school. The change came after the U.S. Department of Education said the Aspire test was not aligned with Alabama’s education standards.
Alabama law requires that school systems test K-12 students to help gauge the level and quality of education.
This school year, the state department of education is using a test called the “Scantron” to test mathematics and reading in grades 3-8. It measures science achievement in grades 5 and 7. State education officials say the Scantron tests more of what students study and learn in school. High schools will use the ACT college entrance exam in 11th grade for assessment.
State education officials say the Scantron was administered in the fall and will be administered again in the spring.