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After poor report, City Schools officials plan to meet challenges head on

Dr. Lisa Herring said she is aware of the history of Birmingham City Schools, and she is hoping to form positive relationships with the school board. (Ariel Worthy/The Birmingham Times)
Times staff report

Steps are being taken to improve the Birmingham City Schools System’s less than satisfactory grade from the state Department of Education, say city school officials.

The Alabama State Department of Education’s (ALSDE) 2018 A-F Report Card last week gave Birmingham a “D.”

“As a district, we own the (state’s) findings,” said Lisa Herring, schools superintendent. “We accept these finding as a benchmark, and declare that this is an indicator of where we are— not where we will remain.”

Herring said the system has an action plan to help it measure and monitor student achievement across the district and is comprised of the following:

  • Developing a success map that charts the district’s path to improving academic achievement
  • Implementing a set of internally-developed criteria that will be used to expand and measure student achievement
  • Developing an accountability report based on established guidelines that monitors academic progress across the district

“This state’s report card is but one snapshot of who we are as a district,” Herring said. “Our plan is to apply our own set of criteria for measuring success [which] allows us to own our path forward.  In some ways our expanded criteria will overlap with those used by the Alabama State Department of Education, and in other ways they will expand to capture elements of student achievement not identified in the report card.”

Herring said she was encouraged to know “where we stand in terms of our academic achievement. The clarity this report provides allows me to work in a focused way to move the district forward.”

Work Cut Out

The superintendent clearly has her work cut out. Last month a list of 75 “failing” schools in Alabama included 14 Birmingham city schools, most in the state.

Schools on the list are: Barrett Elementary, Charles A. Brown Elementary, George Washington Carver High School, Hayes K-8, Hemphill Elementary, Hudson K-8, Huffman High School Magnet, Jackson-Olin High School, Parker High School, Smith Middle School, Washington Elementary School, Jones Valley Middle School, Wenonah High School and Woodlawn High School Magnet.

“We are currently taking time to assess the failing schools data . . . although these won’t be our only indicators, the data will be used to drive our strategy, our plan of execution and our movement toward excellence,” Herring said.

Some Birmingham City schools moved off the failing list while some were added. Those that moved off are Arrington Middle School and South Hampton K-8. New to the state failing list from the 2017 report are Barrett Elementary, Hudson K-8 and Charles A. Brown Elementary School.

Based on 2017 test results in math and reading on the ACT Aspire standardized tests, failing schools are defined as those with students scoring in the lowest 6 percent of state schools. The failing designation and definition is defined by the Alabama Accountability Act of 2013 that was modified in 2015 to exclude schools that serve special populations of students with disabilities.