How many times have we listened to some Alabama politician rant and rave about “Alabama values:? The obvious implication being that if you are not from Alabama, you are not as smart, good-looking and genteel as we are. Remember when George Wallace proudly claimed that Alabamians were as “cultured and refined” as anyone else?
And Heaven forbid if we ever stooped so low that we thought folks in other states could teach us anything.
But, but, but, this line of thought has apparently been bogus. We’ve been duped.
Because now we are being told that educators in Wyoming, Massachusetts, Virginia, New Jersey, Minnesota and those who work with Department of Defense schools understand how to teach math much better than we do and we should find out what they are doing better than we are?
This all started about a year ago when the state school board appointed a blue-ribbon committee to come up with a new math course of study. The committee has 30 members. Twenty-one of them have advanced degrees, four have doctorates. They have almost 500 years of experience with more than 300 years in the classroom. The committee estimates they spent at least 3,500 hours on this project.
And they are all from Alabama.
The state school board recently held a work session to review the work of the committee. At the end of the day, it was decided that we need to look at math education in the states named above, totally ignoring that there are substantial differences in each of them and Alabama. (We have pointed these out.)
(But we failed to point out the most critical factor in student and school performance. Poverty rate. The rate of free-reduced lunches for Alabama schools is 51 percent. This is more than ten points higher than the states we want to compare ourselves to.)
Suzanne Culbreth is a committee member. She is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher and was teaching geometry at Spain Park high school when she was selected in 2012 as Alabama Teacher of the Year. Today she works at UAB.
To say she is disappointed is an understatement. “It is most discouraging that we followed the process and now it seems the state board is not honoring the work of the Alabama math educators they appointed to complete the assignment,” Culbreth says. “We were given a task, followed the process and worked diligently to compete it.”
Vic Wilson is executive director of the Council for Leaders of Alabama Schools (CLAS). A longtime educator, he praised the efforts of the committee in his recent weekly newsletter to members. He also pointed out that since Minnesota has the country’s highest NAEP scores in math, they will be the fist state Alabama studies. He makes an excellent point by reminding everyone that Minnesota spends far more money per pupil than Alabama does.
It is $2,550 more per each student. For Alabama to reach that level, the state K-12 education budget would have to increase $1.9 BILLION annually. But when you are ignoring reality, why pay attention to something like this?
Instead, continue to live in a fantasy world where you scream ALABAMA VALUES and school children continue to take a back seat to politics.