By Cheryl Slocum
Several schools in the Birmingham metro area show significant improvements in achievement in this year’s Alabama State Report Card, which grades the performance of public schools.
In the report, issued by the Alabama State Department of Education on Dec. 28, far fewer area schools received failing grades, compared to last year.
The Bessemer, Midfield, Fairfield and Jefferson County school systems had no failing schools this year — an improvement over three failing schools each in Bessemer and Fairfield and one failing school in Jefferson County last year.
While the Birmingham City Schools maintained a grade of D, the system saw the number of failing schools drop from 22 last year to only five in the new report.
The report card is one of several components of state and federal data the Alabama State Department of Education uses to track and analyze school performance and to provide information for public review. Grades are assigned based on an A-F scale. They are calculated based on scores in the areas of academic achievement (reading and math proficiency); academic growth (improvement in reading and math from one year to the next); graduation rates (within 4 or 5 years of entering 9th grade); college and career readiness; and chronic absenteeism.
This is the second year the state has issued letter grades. The letter system was instituted as a result of legislation requiring the state to change the grading system from numeric to letter grades. The Alabama Accountability Act, passed in 2012, requires the state to make those grades available to the public.
Eric Mackey, the state superintendent of education, said the compilation of data provides a window into the performance of Alabama’s public schools.
The overall scores of schools in the Birmingham area varied widely, and most districts saw only slight changes — either up or down — in the scores compared to last year’s marks.
The Midfield and Fairfield school districts, however, each raised overall scores by 10 points, boosting their grades from D’s to C’s. Midfield went from 64 to 74 points, Fairfield from 62 to 72.
Bessemer, Birmingham and Tarrant city systems had grades of D — Bessemer with 67 points, Birmingham with 68 and Tarrant with 66.
C grades went to Jefferson County Schools (78 points), Fairfield (74 points) and Midfield (76 points).
The Leeds school system earned a B with 81 points.
Homewood (91 points), Hoover (90 points), Mountain Brook (98 points) and Vestavia (94 points) school systems system each scored A’s.
Jefferson County Schools’ overall points score increased by one point to 78 points to retain last year’s mark of C.
Within the Jefferson County system, however, there were more dramatic improvements at individual schools. Concord Elementary jumped from a C to an A, raising last year’s score of 76 points to 90. Brookville Elementary advanced from a D (62 points) to a B (81 points). Four other schools in the district raised letter grades as well: Oak Grove Elementary, Gardendale High School and Warrior Elementary went from C to B, and Pleasant Grove Elementary improved from C to B.
For three Jefferson County schools, a somewhat small point drop resulted in grade reductions from C to D: Crumly Chapel Elementary fell one point from 70 to 69; Brighton School dropped from 70 to 68 and Hueytown Middle School fell from 70 to 65.
Adamsville Elementary lost its B grade with a decline from 83 to 79.
”This year’s report card shows the continued improvement of our district and schools,” Jefferson County Superintendent Craig Pouncey said in a statement to BirminghamWatch. “With 57 schools, we had a wide range of scores, some of them being the highest in the area. We also had no failing schools, which is due to the hard work and dedication of our educators in the classroom and the relationships they build with their students’ parents and communities.”
Jefferson County had three schools with A grades: Jefferson County International Baccalaureate School, Concord Elementary and Bagley Elementary.
Birmingham City Schools attributed the dramatic drop in the number of failing schools to focused efforts to use the report card data as a tool. Five Birmingham City Schools received a failing grade, compared to 22 last year.
Oxmoor K-5, Oliver K-5 and Minor Elementary, raised their grades from failing in the previous report to C this year. Oxmoor K-5’s performance increased from 55 points to 74, and Oliver K-5 increased from 57 to 73 points. Minor Elementary improved by 17 points over last year to 75 points.
The 14 remaining schools that eliminated their failing grades moved from F’s to D’s. One school of note, Barrett Elementary, saw its score increase by 22 points to 69 – one point short of a C.
No Birmingham school received a letter grade lower than it was rated the previous year.
One Birmingham City School, Phillips Academy, received an A with a score of 92 points. Four received B’s and seven got C’s.
The five schools that maintained failing grades from last year are Huffman Academy, W.E. Putnam Magnet Middle School, Bush Hills Academy, Hemphill Elementary and Hayes K-8.
In a statement on the Birmingham City School’s website, district Superintendent Lisa Herring said, “Birmingham City Schools is on an upward trajectory. Following last year’s results, we committed to own our data. We declared that in a year’s time, we would not be standing in that same space. I am proud to say we honored that commitment.”
The Alabama Accountability Act requires that parents with students in failing schools be notified and given the option to transfer their children to a comparable school that is not on the failing list if there is room and the school is willing to accept the students. If no school is available within the school system, the parent may seek transfer to a school within another local school system that has room and will accept the student. A final option is for the student to transfer to a qualifying non-public Alabama school that is willing to accept the student.
Report card information will be available to review beginning Monday, Dec. 31, with scores for districts and individual schools here.