Business Supports Early Reading and Workforce Programs in K-12 Schools

At a special-called Alabama State Board of Education work session last week, board members reemphasized support for successful early reading and workforce programs in their meeting with state Superintendent of Education Michael Sentance who has been working on a draft reorganization of programs.

During the work session, Sentance said he’ll keep the important Career Tech/Education Workforce program a separate function within the ALSDE instead of moving it under another division’s control as a draft plan had proposed.

“It’s not my focus at all to diminish the focus of career-tech education,” Sentance said. “It always seemed to me the career-tech program was one of the areas where things were going pretty well.”

To support his position, the department released a statement: “There is not, nor has there ever been, a plot to diminish Alabama’s CTE program or in any way lessen the important work that our CTE staff and workforce partners have worked so hard to develop. On the contrary, it is more important than ever to make sure CTE efforts are bolstered to ensure students are prepared for the workforce opportunities that await after high school.”

The Business Council of Alabama and the Business Education Alliance of Alabama support the Career Tech/Education Workforce program, the Alabama Reading Initiative, and the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative. Another program, Alabama Science in Motion, provides science supplies to Alabama high school classrooms.

“ARI, AMSTI, and ASIM, while successful historically, can be reexamined for positive revamping to keep Alabama’s successful early reading education efforts and workforce preparation programs in the forefront,” said BEA Chairman and CEO Joe Morton, Ph.D.

Board members questioned Sentance about his stated plan to look at current programs such as ARI and AMSTI as part of his potential reorganization. They reaffirmed support for the AMSTI, Science in Motion, and the ARI that has changed direction recently from its inception in 1998.

Board members Stephanie Bell, Cynthia Sanders McCarty, and Jeffrey Newman said they want to modernize the ARI while keeping its original intent of teaching youngsters to read at grade level by the third grade.

“I’m for getting back to what we were doing, and it can be done,” Newman. “Don’t re-purpose it; get back to what we were doing.”

As for science, Sentance said a study revealed that there has been no growth in achievement for five years.

“My goal is to make math and science a strength not a weakness in this state,” Sentance said. “I’ve seen AMSTI competitions so I’m familiar with it. The teachers are excited and all those things, but how do I build that excitement into achievement? Because achievement is static right now.”