Three Huntsville City Schools appear on state list of failing schools

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Wednesday, the Alabama State Department of Education released its 2018 list of failing schools, as defined by the Alabama Accountability Act of 2015.

Three Huntsville City Schools appeared there:

  • Jemison High School
  • Lee High School
  • Ronald McNair 7-8

You can view the entire list by clicking this link.

Schools on this annual list are in the lowest six percent of public K—12 schools in the state. In 2017, Huntsville City Schools’ Lee High School and Columbia High School appeared there.

WHNT News 19 contacted Huntsville City Schools for comment on this year’s updated list of failing schools. The school system maintains that the list, and the Alabama Accountability Act which mandates the testing, does not give parents a true understanding of how their child’s school performs or take into account the things Huntsville City Schools provides for its students.

The school system states that the results are based on the ACT Aspire, a test that students take one day out of their school year: “The formula, as defined in the state law, simply takes the bottom six percent to compile the list, and the law does not consider any other aspects about a school. In June 2017, the ALSDE voted to stop the ACT Aspire because the test did not align to what our teachers are required to teach in the classroom,” the school system notes.

The district leans heavily on the list “relying on a discontinued test.”

But it says another “problem” with the list is that “high schools are based only on test scores of the 10th-grade students. This means that approximately 75 percent of the students in each school do not participate in the score. Also, a single standardized test cannot represent the programs and variety of opportunities that a school or district provides for its students.”

The school system argues that there are multiple programs including the Creative and Performing Arts magnet at Lee HS and engineering design and advanced manufacturing at Mae Jemison HS that the failing schools list can not depict. The school system says  in a media release:

“HCS is the only school system in Alabama, and one of only a few in the nation, to offer Project Lead the Way, a leading STEM program, as a full K-12 program throughout the district. This program is in McNair Junior High, Jemison High, and Lee High.

In fact, ‘Huntsville City Schools has many regional and national recognized top college and career programs, STEM classes in all elementary through high schools, an overall graduation rate of 88%, and an average of over $51 million in scholarships each year,’ according to Superintendent Matt Akin. ‘We also recognize there are areas of real improvements. We are focused every day on looking at the needs of all students with a goal of individualized learning to advance every child.’

We will continue to work on our district goals of improving teacher recruitment and retention, improving literacy, and developing a personalized learning environment that supports all students.”

Parents of children who attend any schools on the failing list have several options when it comes to School Choice, per Alabama law and outlined by the department of education as follows:

  • “Option 1: The student may remain or enroll in the assigned school.
  • Option 2 – The student may transfer to a comparable school that is not included on the annual list of “failing schools” within the same local school system that has available space and is willing to accept the student.
  • Option 3 – If the local system has not made Option 2 available, the student may transfer to a comparable school that is not included on the annual list of “failing schools” within another Alabama local school system that has available space and is willing to accept the student.
  • Option 4 – The student may transfer to a qualifying non-public Alabama school that is willing to accept the student.”

You can find more information here.

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