Decatur sends 126 to A+ College Ready training | Decatur

HARTSELLE — Brookhaven Middle School curriculum specialist Rebekah Higgins expected to spend most of Tuesday morning visiting the various academic disciplines during A+ College Ready training.

But she said she became engrossed in the session on math and couldn’t leave. Other teachers told similar stories.

Higgins was among 500 educators from the Tennessee Valley who came to Hartselle High for the first of a four-day training session designed to help teachers implement the A+ College Ready alliance. Decatur City Schools signed with the organization in April.

There were concerns about how many DCS teachers would attend the training because the Alabama Education Association sought compensation for teachers who are attending the training during non-contract time.

Rodney Randell, who has worked in the school system for more than 20 years, sent an email to the Central Office asking the district to pay teachers “$125 per day as compensation for non-contract time.”

The district rejected his request for pay, but agreed to let teachers who attend all four days get credit for their two floating teacher work days and miss two other professional development days during the school year.

Tommy Davis, DCS secondary curriculum and career tech director, said 126 teachers signed up for the Hartselle training, and others will receive training later this month at Hewitt-Trussville High.

Tammy Dunn, who is chief academic officer for A+ College Ready, said College Ready can’t require teachers in school districts that become part of the alliance to attend training sessions.

“It’s our expectation that they will attend training if they want to access materials we provide,” she said.

Dunn said to receive the $600 A+ College Ready provides to purchase classroom equipment and supplies, teachers have to sign letters of agreements saying they will commit to implement A+ standards.

AEA officials said the issue for its members has never been about the importance of A+ College Ready. Randell and AEA Uniserve Director Wendy Lang said they were concerned about teachers working without compensation.

Dunn said this week’s training is designed to provide teachers lessons and strategies that will help them start preparing students for advanced placement exams they will take as juniors and seniors.

Decatur and Austin are among 20 high schools from throughout the state selected to join the A+ College Ready Program this year, which will make available more rigorous class offerings, school officials said.

East Limestone, Elkmont and West Limestone are also part of the 2017-18 alliance, which is a state initiative aimed at expanding access to Advanced Placement class offerings for underserved students in math, science and English.

The program, which started with a $13.2 million grant in 2008, gives students an opportunity to take classes that will count toward college credit if they achieve a qualifying score. AP exams are scored on a 1-5 scale with 3 considered a qualifying score.

Decatur discussed joining the program several years ago but opted not to because some Decatur High teachers were worried about the impact it would have on the International Baccalaureate program.

DCS is dropping its IB program and honors classes and replacing the options with A+ College Ready.

Brookhaven Middle Principal Anita Clarke endorses the change because it raises the rigor for all students, regardless of their economic status.

“People think because of our demographics that our students can’t excel,” she said. “A+ College Ready will help them see beyond their potential, which is what we want all students in Decatur to do.”

Clarke said every teacher at Brookhaven, including new employees, signed up for the training.

Higgins said scaffolding was a major component of the first day of training. Scaffolding strategies in education terms are instructional techniques to help students become more independent in the learning process.

Decatur is one of the last school districts in the area to join A+ College Ready. The program will support 16 AP course offerings and make available three content directors, three content managers and four content specialists to support teachers in Decatur City.

Dunn said AP exams are college-level tests that will give students an opportunity to earn college credits while in high school. She said high school teachers will receive training at Alabama and Auburn, and Decatur’s two high schools will receive up to $16,000 to purchase classroom material.

“We think this program will significantly benefit the students of Decatur,” Dunn said.