Alabama Superintendent Sentance sent a letter June 1, 2017, to Acting Deputy Jason Botel of the United States Department of Education (USDE) on behalf of Alabama State Board of Education that requested to substitute other assessments for Aspire. Superintendent Sentance also had a phone conversation with Mr. Botel and other officials from the USDE. The request was denied by USDE. Sentance then told the Alabama State Board of Education in regard to the waiver, “It was pretty clear right from the start the answer was going to be no.” The Alabama State Board of Education requested that Sentance make a more formal request from the USDE. Meanwhile, Stephanie Bell and other Board members appealed to Washington officials.
That’s when Alabamians began showing their support for the State Board’s position. On June 14, Eagle Forum in a memo to the Alabama Congressional delegation wrote:
“….we need our Congressional delegation to intervene right away. The State Board is facing a July 1 deadline to non-renew Aspire …Because Aspire claims to be aligned with Alabama College and Career Ready (Common Core) Standards, the continued use of Aspire will lock Alabama into the failing common core system that has resulted, for example, in our NAEP scores dropping from 25th and to dead last…”
This message went to key White House and USDE staffers as well as to influential Alabama constituents. On that same day, Congressman Brooks responded and immediately sent a letter to the USDE requesting that Alabama be granted flexibility in its choices in regards to assessments. And on June 15, Betty Peters published her article: “What Do the Feds Expect Us to Do Without ESSA Waiver?” The Alabama Congressional delegation was working toward releasing a joint letter to USDE officials the word came on June 19 that USDE would be allowing the waiver.
Subsequently, the Alabama State Board of Education voted unanimously on June 21, 2017, not to renew the contract with Aspire. No replacement assessment was confirmed by the Alabama State Board of Education. Eagle Forum will continue at every opportunity to push for the restoration of local control and academic excellence in education.
Other states will want to follow Alabama’s example and pursue their own course under an administration that in Alabama’s case showed respect for local and state control of education.
Eunie Smith is the President of Eagle Forum and Deborah Love is the Executive Director of the Eagle Forum of Alabama.