Alabama Superintendent Proposes Plan To Improve State's Schools
Alabama's superintendent of education, Wayne Teague, began stumping
the state last week in a series of 16 public hearings to promote his
Developed at the request of the state board of education and
presented to the board on Jan. 12, Mr. Teague's proposal calls for
tougher graduation standards, with an optional honors diploma;
mandatory kindergarten; revisions in teacher-certification
requirements; improved professional development; and the appointment of
special panels to study other issues such as school finance and teacher
While some of the initiatives--particularly those involving new
funds--would require legislative action, state officials said other
recommendations could take the form of regulatory changes and
state-board resolutions, and could go into effect as early as March.
"Many of these improvements will not cost anything," noted Luther
Mitchell, a spokesman for the superintendent. "Dr. Teague has asked the
financial staff to calculate the cost of those items that do have a
The 115-page document, entitled "A Plan for Excellence: Alabama's
Public Schools," draws on ideas espoused in reports by the National
Commission on Excellence in Education and the Carnegie Foundation for
the Advancement of Teaching, as well as on conditions peculiar to
Alabama. It concurs, in large part, with a report issued this month by
the Alabama Association of School Administrators.
Among the topics covered in Mr. Teague's report:
Graduation requirements. For the standard diploma, the
superintendent would require students to complete 22 Carnegie units, or
two more than are now required, including four units of English, three
of social studies, two each of mathematics and science, one in physical
education, one-half each in computer literacy, "home and personal
management," and health education, and 8.5 units of electives.
Mr. Teague also recommended the establishment of an honors diploma
for students who complete, in addition to the requirements for the
standard diploma, a third year each of math and science, two years of a
foreign language, and a full year of computer literacy.
Homework and instructional time. The superintendent recommends
making better use of the current 175-day school year, developing
students' study habits at an early age, requiring homework regularly in
all subjects, and curtailing extracurricular activities that interfere
with class or homework time.
Kindergarten. Alabama now provides state-supported kindergarten
classes to about half of eligible 5-year-olds. The state superintendent
recommends making kindergarten available to all eligible children and
requiring completion of a public or accredited private kindergarten
program for admission to 1st grade.
Teachers' responsibilities and preparation. Teachers would be
relieved of such non-instructional duties as cafeteria supervision,
would participate in the development of individualized
professional-growth plans to improve their performance, and would be
employed for 185 days a year, instead of the current 180, to allow time
for professional development.
The superintendent has urged that standards and a process be
developed for the temporary certification of people who do not have
education backgrounds to teach in fields, such as math and science, in
which fully certified teachers are in short supply. He also recommends
the expansion, through contributions from businesses, of a state
scholarship program for prospective teachers in areas of critical need.
Admission and graduation standards at teacher-training institutions
are under review.
Teacher compensation. According to the report, Mr. Teague and Gov.
George C. Wallace (who also serves as president of the state board of
education) should appoint a task force to develop an "adequate
teacher-compensation system" for implementation in the 1985-86 school
year, giving consideration to incentive pay, master-teacher programs,
and career ladders.
Base salaries for teachers, meanwhile, should be brought up to the
national average of $20,531 for 1982-83 or to a level commensurate with
that of professions requiring similar preparation, the report says.
State officials said the salaries of Alabama's teachers ranked 36th in
the nation in 1982-83, averaging $17,850.
Finance and governance. In addition to the suggested comprehensive
study of school finance in the state, Mr. Teague recommends that the
state develop more effective ways of dealing with substandard
schools--through providing more support and, if that fails, through
reorganization or consolidation.
As a minimum, he says, all high schools should be required to offer
all students the courses leading to the honors diploma. Those that
cannot may be required to share teachers, transport students across
district lines, or consolidate.
Mr. Teague also recommends that all 128 local school superintendents
be appointed; about 25 percent of them are now elected. And he says
local systems should be required to evaluate principals prior to their
appointment and to require that principals have experience at the grade
levels to which they are to be assigned.
Vol. 03, Issue 18, Page 5
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