Tommy Bice, September 10, 2013

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2013-09-10-Tommy-BriceOur speaker today was Dr. Tommy Bice the Superintendent of the AL State Department of Education. Dr. Bice reports that a new direction is in place with “Plan 2020”. Meetings have been held with industry, corporate partners, and higher education who “receive the final product” to determine what is lacking in todays high school grads. All point toward the same statement: “The desire to learn is not there”.

Measures are in place to redefine the high school grad and create one that can roll into a 2 or 4 year college, industrial workforce training, or technical college and be successful. Many students have knowledge but they don’t know how to apply it. This is a big focus on what and how to change. Teach them not only what but how. Also – they must have the desire to learn with the changing landscape of business and technology.

Currently there is a 72% graduation rate I the state. The Plan 2020 goal is for there to be a 90% graduation rate by then. In the first year of looking differently at how schools operate, there was a 3% change for the good which equates to 1,800 more graduates statewide! High School grads can earn up to $450K more in their lifetime.


The state is setting new academic standards with new expectations. The new initiative gives the student the knowledge of how to apply what they learn in the real world with problem solving and critical thinking skills. Changes also include things like giving the final exam near the beginning of the year. If the student can pass it, they get credit for the course and move on to another class. There has to be a support system to help ALL children have the same opportunity. Out of 95 million students in the state 60% are on free lunch, meaning they come from a household where resources are so limited they do not even have the supplies needed for school – let alone the parental support.

Resources will now be available in the schools so if a child needs a therapist appointment for counseling, it will take place at the school. Otherwise – in impoverished households, the appointment is simply missed if left to parents with limited resources (like transportation, etc.)

The role of the schools is being put back into the hands of the schools. It is shifting from such a regulatory approach to encourage innovation. So how do we get the schools on board? People like us have to step up and push the school system to take advantage of the new “barrier free” approach. Most are very reluctant and don’t embrace the new found freedom. If they will only do so it will create a whole new learning environment. They can take the existing resources and make them work to

their favor. The high schools in Florence, AL have shifted to a virtual learning experience where students can take electives and career tech during the day and core subjects online at night. Yes. This disrupts the status quo but the fact is that most high school students excel with options like this. Their peak learning times are later in the day as opposed to early morning.

The key is to explore opportunities for the best options for the students. This will create a future for individual students like no other time in history.



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