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November 2013 Group Watch: News & Views from the State House

This month brings two appointment announcements and some interesting education news.

  • AL Governor to Chair National Committee: Governor Robert Bentley has been named chairman of the Economic Development and Commerce Committee of the National Governors Association for the 2013-2014 year. The National Governors Association Chair, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, recognized economic progress being made in Alabama and asked Governor Bentley to take the role. In his new position, the governor will meet with other governors at upcoming meetings to talk about economic development in Alabama. Governor Bentley said he plans to highlight Accelerate Alabama, the state’s long-term strategic job-growth plan, as well as the state’s workforce training program, AIDT.
  • AL GOP’s New Minority Outreach Director: The Alabama Republican Party has named the co-owner of a Montgomery optical business as its director of minority outreach. Party officials said that Rochester, New York, native Troy Towns has been chosen to lead the party’s minority outreach efforts. Towns has lived in Alabama for more than 20 years and has served as vice chair of the Montgomery Minority GOP. Towns is also an active member of the Wetumpka Tea Party. According to Towns, Republican candidates are more closely aligned with the values of many minority voters. He challenges Alabama voters to support candidates based upon who supports their values instead of voting by party affiliation.
  • AL’s Pre-K Works: The Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) has reported that participation in Alabama’s state pre-k program improves performance for students in elementary school. PARCA compared test scores from students who attend the voluntary First Class Pre-K program with those who did not. The benefits extend until at least the sixth grade, according to an ongoing evaluation of the program. PARCA’s report says that students from low-income households show particularly strong academic benefits. Participation in the program narrows the gap in academic performance between students from lower income families and those from more affluent families by 25 percent. The National Institute for Early Education Research has recognized Alabama’s program for meeting all 10 of its benchmarks for quality.
  • The End of Graduation Exams: The State Board of Education recently voted to do away with the exam that students had to pass for graduation. The termination of the exam applies to students who were ninth-graders in 2010-2011 and are seniors this school year. Students who were in the ninth grade before 2010-2011 and are one to two grade levels behind will still need to pass the exam to graduate. State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice said the exam is no longer a good measurement of the school board’s goal of having every graduate ready for college or a career. Bice said the board is moving toward end-of-course exams for the major required courses. They are already in place for 10th-grade English and Algebra 1, and so far, there is no score that students must make to successfully complete a course. The board also passed a resolution reaffirming that it controls all academic content standards for Alabama’s public schools. Board members said that they took this action to address concerns voiced by some parents who are upset that the Common Core standards are included in Alabama’s standards.

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