Education study ranks Alabama near the bottom
By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — A national study by Education Week Magazine shows Alabama is still struggling to keep up with the rest of the nation in public education.
The study, called "Quality Counts 2007," ranks Alabama 45th in giving public school children a chance to succeed and 47th on an achievement index that includes performance on tests in reading and math, graduation rates and other student performance indicators.
The results of the study, released Wednesday, show Alabama students trailing most of the rest of the nation in reading and math achievement, despite the state implementing programs in recent years to improve performance in those areas.
Despite the low overall ranking, the study ranks Alabama among the best in the nation — eighth — in having policies in effect aimed at improving education performance.
New policies in place
Elizabeth Klemick, a researcher on the report, said some of the policies cited in the report are new.
"It may take a while for any policy to see an impact and be reflective in achievement," she said.
The report showed Alabama students scoring well below the national average on fourth and eighth grade math and reading tests, despite the Legislature funding initiatives aimed at improving performance in those areas.
State Schools Superintendent Joe Morton said the reading initiative is just now getting to where it is funded in all schools and the math initiative is only in some schools.
"There's no question that these programs work," Morton said.
He said when the Alabama Reading Initiative began eight years ago, there were a number of elementary school students who were functionally illiterate and that much work was needed just to get them reading at grade level.
Morton said he was encouraged that the report recognized that Alabama has policies in place aimed at improving education.
"In education, the establishment of policies is the initial act. The implementation is where the rubber meets the road. That takes a while," Morton said.
The Education Week study takes into account outside school influences, such as family income, parent education and whether parents are working. Alabama ranked below the national average in most of those categories. Morton agreed that those factors are important, but said educators have little control over them, particularly in poor areas like Alabama's impoverished Black Belt region.
"You cannot enact policies to improve those things," Morton said. "We're going to show academic improvement in Alabama, including in the Black Belt, but it's still going to be an impoverished area," Morton said.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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