Bice: State is shifting focus to college, career

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, August 15, 2012

State schools superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice told educators gathered at the Covington County Education Summit on Tuesday that Alabama is shifting its concentration from adequate yearly progress to college and career readiness.

“We need to prepare every child so that they have a choice to do whatever they want to do,” he said. “It could be that a student takes AP calculus, but ends up digging a ditch, it needs to be their choice, not mine.”

Bice said not only does he want every child in Alabama to graduate, he wants to them to graduate prepared.

“They need to gain knowledge and skills and know how to apply that to the work setting,” he said. “We’re changing the focus to where a kid leaves knowing how to apply it.”

To do that, Bice said the Department of Education is working with the Department of Postsecondary Education to create a unified pre-K through 20 college and career readiness goals.

“We need to have the same goals,” he said.

Bice said there will be multiple ways for schools to now meet the college and career readiness standards.

“A percentage of your accountability will be at the local level,” he said. “We’re excited about that.”

Additionally, Bice said the state is working to put politics aside and learn.

“If we have a policy or practice that is standing in your way, we will waive it, unless it’s federally mandated,” he said.

Bice gave examples of three school systems already taking advantage of this option.

At Florence City Schools, they are focusing on increasing the number of students enrolling in AP courses, and they no longer give the social studies or language arts portion of the graduation exam.

In Lawrence County Schools, the system asked to shift its entire focus to agriculture because the region is predominately agricultural-based. Now students can get an advanced agriculture diploma.

Bice said they are operating as one big K-12 school.

In kindergarten through second grade, they incubate eggs and keep logs dealing with math, social studies and more to understand why they need these subjects.

In grades three through five, students build chicken coops, and measure growth, food and write in journals.

Middle schoolers build raised gardens and used manure as fertilizer, and high schoolers grow fall and spring gardens and give their yields to senior citizens.

Winterboro High School in Talladega County has an issue with children not graduating, so they turned their high school into a new tech school with project-based learning, Bice said.

Honda sends problems throughout the year for children to get the answers to, and teachers work together.

“The Honda employee manual is the student handbook,” Bice said. “We’ve just reversed the equation. You can be as aspirational as you want to as long as you aren’t breaking the law.”

Bice used a quote from Harvard’s Ronald Edmonds that said. “We can whenever we choose successfully to teach all children whose school is of importance to us.”