5 things the Alabama Education Lab learned from teachers this week
This column first appeared in the Alabama Education Lab newsletter, Ed Chat. You can register for the next editions here. Learn more about the Ed Lab’s mission here.
This week, the Education Lab team traveled to Mobile to attend the MEGA conference and meet with teachers and residents of the Mobile area to discuss issues affecting schools and children.
We heard from a wide range of educators and advocates for a wide range of issues – and got tons of ideas on solutions and problems to explore in future articles.
Talk to The Alabama Education Lab about someone making a difference in your local school community.
Here are a few things we learned:
1. Early literacy is a priority. Of course, every year teachers help children learn to read. But I’ve heard a wide range of opinions on how the state and local schools should approach reading, and whether more delays or supports are needed after the pandemic. The state is now moving forward with its accountability efforts and says test results released in August will show whether more interventions or retention for struggling readers will be effective. One thing came out: people want more information about the number of children in school, how interventions work, and who exactly is at risk of being retained.
2. The critical debate on racial theory is a distraction. Critical race theory is not taught in Kindergarten to Grade 12, and state officials said they had not received any specific complaints about negative influence in schools. Educators said they were unsure whether the state’s efforts to curb discussions of race and racism would actually affect what they teach in the classroom – State Superintendent Eric Mackey said that would not affect them. would not prevent discussing difficult topics. They told me they were concerned about general state and public interference in the school curriculum and that the debate would politicize education further.
Read more: What is Critical Race Theory? Is this taught in schools in Alabama?
3. Many educators are proud of the efforts to reopen last year. Several teachers told me they were proud of the efforts to get the kids back to class as quickly as possible last year. I haven’t heard a lot of concerns about whether the Delta variant might affect the school this fall. It looks like the districts and state are in a rush to start the school year next month as normally as possible. We’ll have more updates soon on what to expect in terms of masks, vaccines, and back-to-school efforts.
4. Rural schools struggle to find certified teachers. Will TEAMS help you? I have spoken with several administrators who are really struggling to find qualified teachers; some districts do not have teachers trained in specific subjects and rely on certified staff in the event of an emergency. We talk about “teacher shortages” in Alabama, but the reality is there are multiple labor shortages and different communities may need different assistance programs. We are interested to see how many teachers accept the TEAMS allowance offer and whether it will be effective in filling the gaps. So what’s next?
5. Communities use creative strategies to tackle mental health. Several people proposed new hires, initiatives and programs focused on mental health and general well-being for both children and adults. Fairfield has a medical clinic. Mobile is recruiting new social workers. We wrote about some statewide initiatives to add mental health coordinators, fund counselors, and add other supports, but it was interesting to hear of more localized efforts. These are exactly the kind of solutions that Ed Lab wants to learn more about and see if they work in the long run.
We also heard about grading efforts, socio-emotional learning, outreach to students without permanent housing, rural transportation, and attendance efforts. The educators do a wonderful job. I am excited to continue to tell stories about Alabama schools. Want to tell us more about your school? Notify the team at [email protected]