By William J. Canary, president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama and Joe Morton, Ph.D., Chairman and President of the Business Education Alliance of Alabama
Whether it’s becoming a doctor, teacher, lawyer, pipefitter, welder, or automobile assembler, education is the key to filling tomorrow’s jobs. We support the State Board of Education in its duty to select our next state superintendent of education and firmly believe it is the decision of the nine-member board to select the best person from those who have submitted applications.
While in no way are we trying to influence the vote or the final selection, we do believe that any select group of candidates interviewed for the job should be asked in a public forum a group of questions that will give insight into how a new state superintendent of education will lead public education in the years to come.
The following list of pertinent questions is essential so the public, those in the education community, members of state government, the Legislature, and the business community can be informed about the candidates:
- The Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) was created to enable every student in Alabama public schools to read, at a minimum, at grade level by the end of the third grade. In 2011, Alabama achieved a milestone in reading by seeing its fourth grade students score at the National Average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Since then, the NAEP fourth-grade scores in Alabama have declined. As state superintendent of education, what will you do to revive the ARI and dramatically improve reading achievement by our students so they can be successful in all aspects of education?
- Once a student can read well he/she is much more likely to perform better in other subjects, especially in the critical areas of math, science, and technology. STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is critical to Alabama’s economic success, and Alabama students must be proficient in STEM-related subjects. As state superintendent of education what will you do to improve Alabama students’ success in STEM-related courses?
- From 2011-2015, Alabama’s high school graduation rate increased from 72 percent to 89 percent. The Alabama Department of Education released data on the 2015 graduates that revealed only 70 percent of those in the 89 percent graduation rate demonstrated readiness to go to college or were on a pathway toward a career. As state superintendent of education, what will you do to make sure all high school graduates are college- and career-ready?
- Under normal circumstances, educators, parents, and the community usually agree that the better the quality of a school’s teaching staff, the better chance each student has to be successful. A way to measure teacher quality is through an annual evaluation. As state superintendent of education, what would you do to ensure all Alabama schools are staffed with highly qualified and highly effective teachers and administrators?
- No state in America can experience economic growth without a successful system of public education. Any successful educational system prepares students for success beyond high school, be it a job, continued education or both. Career and technical education is essential to all students being prepared for life. As state superintendent of education, what would you do to ensure every student is prepared to be a successful graduate, with the requisite skills required to be a strong contributing member of society, and be able to perform successfully in his/her chosen field of work?
Alabama education must improve. As the old saying goes, you’re either making progress, stagnant, or losing ground. We join the State Board of Education in wanting public education to make progress. The next generations of Alabama business leaders and employees are being educated now, most of them in public schools.
It is imperative that the candidate who is selected is the very best person to guide and lead our public school teachers, administrators and most importantly, our students to educational success.
William J. Canary is president and CEO of the Business Council of Alabama. Joe Morton, Ph.D., is the chairman and president of the Business Education Alliance of Alabama. Morton was Alabama’s 36th state superintendent of education.