Friday, June 10, 2011

Morton led gains

Sometimes a public official is just at the right place at the right time and gets credit for things that would have happened regardless of who held the post.
But that's not remotely the case with State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton, who has presided over some significant improvments in public education since he took the job in 2004. Morton has played a central role in making the educational process better for Alabama's public school students.
His positive influence on public policy goes back long before becoming state superintendent, however. He served as deputy state superintendent for nine years before becoming the state's top educator.
Under Morton's leadership, the state developed such positive reforms as the Alabama Reading Initiative, the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative, and the Alabama Connecting Classrooms Educators and Students Statewide Initiative.
Those alphabet-soup reforms -- ARI, AMSTI and ACCESS -- not only brought the state to the brink of acronym overload, they spurred major gains in educational achievement for the state's public school students.
All three reforms to some degree have become national models for improving student achievement, but none more so than the Reading Initiative. After ARI was put in place in many of the state's elementary schools, Alabama in 2007 recorded the largest imrovement in reading scores in the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
AMSTI also has been hailed nationally as a model for improving student learning.
Morton's service as an educator goes back 42 years. He began as a classroom teacher in Jefferson County, and at 27 became the youngest school system superintendent in the state's history when he accepted that job in Sumter County. He later served for 17 years as superintendent of Sylacauga City Schools.
Everything was not rosy for public education during Morton's tenure, of course. In recent years, he has seen the expansion of ARI and the other successful reforms stalled because of budget problems. Public schools have been staggered by major reductions in revenues, both at the state and local levels, and that has created problems for most of the state's local school systems -- including those in the tri-county area.
But without Morton's leadership, those funding issues probably would have been worse.
Members of the State Board of Education face a tough task in finding someone to fill Joe Morton's shoes. But they owe it to Alabama students to give it their best shot.

No comments:

Post a Comment