Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Superintendent of Education Talks Graduation Rates, Computers for Students

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Superintendent of Education Talks Graduation Rates, Computers for Students

Article excerpt

TUSCALOOSA | When Alabama Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice stepped into the position 18 months ago, he said he stepped into the perfect storm.

The state's education budget was a billion less than it was the previous year and the No Child Left Behind Act was still in place.

Besides a fair share of difficulty, the position gave him something else.

"It gave me the opportunity to put all the sacred cows to rest and decide which to slaughter, keep or put out to pasture," Bice said.

Bice, Tuscaloosa City Schools Superintendent Paul McKendrick and Tuscaloosa County Schools Interim Superintendent Dan Butler were the keynote speakers at the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama's annual State of the Schools address Thursday.

The three superintendents were each given 10 minutes to tell business leaders and a crowd of hundreds at the Bryant Conference Center what's going on in their respective areas of responsibility.

Bice said he created a new education plan for the state called Plan 2020, which has the goal of increasing the state's overall graduation rate to 90 percent by the year 2020. The plan calls for every student to graduate, but students don't have to reach that goal in the same way. The plan provides the flexibility for students through individualized four-year plans that take into account students academic and career interests.

Plan 2020 also focuses on getting students college- and career- ready, developing a unified pre-K plan and creating a balanced assessment and accountability system.

"Sixty percent of the lunches served in schools in Alabama are free and reduced," Bice said. "Our biggest issue is poverty."

Bice said if more students graduate and find gainful employment, students will on average earn $250,000 more each in their lifetimes, which will help solve public education's funding problems since public education in Alabama is mostly funded through income tax and sales tax. …

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