Trisha Powell Crain on Top Education Stories of 2015

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This year has been extremely busy on the Alabama education beat: a study commissioned by the state education department itself called school funding inadequate and unequal; state Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh floated a draft bill that could, among other seismic shifts, tie teacher pay to student test results; and, as Alabama School Connection’s Trisha Powell Crain points out, charter schools became legal in Alabama. But she tells WBHM’s Dan Carsen that even that story is not quite so simple.

Listen to the five-minute on-air version of the interview above. Key excerpts and a web-only extended version are below. 

An Experiment

“Charter schools are only as good as the operators. I don’t know how you know up front if a charter school operator is going to be a good one or not, so it’s always an experiment … I wouldn’t say I’m worried, [but] I think I’ll be watching very carefully.”

Haves and Have-Nots

“[The report said] the way Alabama’s schools are funded is massively inequitable … The school districts that have, have a lot. The school districts that have very little local money are the have-nots … Alabama has a history of saying, well, we’re happy with the haves and the have-nots. I mean, the system has developed not out of ignorance. There have been some purposeful choices made that have allowed some school districts to amass more money than others.”

Tying Teacher Evaluation — and Pay — to Student Test Scores?

“Remembering, it is a draft [bill] … if teachers do exceedingly well, then they [would] be paid a bonus. At this point, Alabama is one of only six states that don’t tie teacher evaluation to test scores in some way. The devil is in the details … Bringing this to scale, I have some concerns. We have a lot of struggles in our schools, right? Can we really expect every teacher to be able to mount all of those struggles that children face in a day and then show some fantastic result on a standardized test score?”

Click below for the web-exclusive 17-minute interview, which includes Crain’s thoughts on teacher tenure, “neovouchers,” Catholic education (and Catholic education with money diverted from public coffers), No Child Left Behind, and the controversial Alabama Accountability Act of 2013, which continues to be revised and scrutinized: