Alabama Forestry Foundation Improving Rural Alabama Education

education2A recent news article doesn’t provide very promising news for our education system. Mike Cason, with al.com, writes in his article Alabama students trail national averages in ACT results (found here) that Alabama public high school graduates in 2015 received an average composite score of 18.8 on the ACT while the national average was 21.

He goes on to say that things are even worse when broken down by subject matter. In particular mathematics (22% vs. 42% nationally) and science (23% vs. 38% nationally) were not very impressive.

The Alabama Forestry Foundation is working to correct that trend.

Through its Blackbelt Initiative, the Foundation is completing its third year of supporting two rural schools in order to improve math and science skills among K-6 graders. The Foundation sponsors a teacher “coach” at J.U. Blacksher in Monroe County and Thomasville Elementary in Clarke County. These teacher “coaches” provide training and support to other teachers to emphasize math and science excellence in all aspects of the curriculum.

We recently received some results from Thomasville Elementary that are very exciting.

After three years of immersion in the program, third graders exceeded the national averages (measured as a % of “readiness”) in mathematics (63% vs. 50% nationally) and science (35% vs. 29% nationally). The fourth graders were just a little behind in mathematics (32% vs. 45% nationally) but ahead in science (38% vs. 35% nationally).

What are the initial conclusions from this data?

It’s still very early in the process as we are only three years into the program, but two conclusions are emerging.

First, the program is working. Consistent testing has only been going on for three years, but we are able to determine that the third graders that were tested three years ago were far below the national averages and now the third graders that were tested this year are ahead of the national averages. The only change has been the Foundation’s program.

Second, the difference between the third grade and fourth grade data indicates that success is better achieved the earlier a student is exposed to the program.

If you would like to learn more about the Foundation and its Blackbelt Initiative view an informational video here.

The AFA Annual Meeting will be held at the Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, Alabama on September 13th – 15th. If you have not already registered for the conference, you can easily do so by going to www.alaforestry.org.

This year we will have the inaugural Alabama Forestry Foundation Breakfast on Monday, September 14th. Attorney General Luther Strange will be our keynote and will discuss the critical need we have for improving math and science skills in rural Alabama.

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