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Selma schools on par with state

Alabama schools have improved in the past few years, and Selma City Schools are following in stride.

Statewide, Alabama has increased performances with ACT scores, demonstrated exemplary pre-kindergarten programming and offered the highest beginning salary for teachers with less than three years of classroom experience, according to a recent study by the Southern Regional Educational Board.

Although Selma City Schools have an average ACT score below the state average, the system offers the same competitive starting salary for teachers, and pre-kindergarten programming for students.

Selma City students averaged a score of 18.2 on the ACT, compared to the 20.3 for the state in 2007, according to the Alabama State Department of Education school profile reports for 2007.

“Part of that could be because a lot of our kids wait until their junior or senior year to decide that they want to go to college,” said Don Jefferson, interim superintendent of the Selma City Schools. “Most kids in a lot of districts start taking the ACT in seventh grade, just for developing testing skills and understanding what it is you need to know to continue to progress educationally from grade level to grade level.”

Jefferson asks parents to encourage students to take the ACT as early as the seventh grade or the beginning of high school to familiarize themselves with the testing format to increase scores.

Alabama and North Carolina are the only two states in the region stretching from Texas to Delaware to pass all program 10 standards for pre-kindergarten programming. Selma City Schools offer these same pre-k classes for students.

The National Institute for Early Education Research, NIEER, sets the standards, all of which Alabama has met since 2006, according to Alan Richard, director of communications for SREB.

“It gets into the credentials pre-K teachers have, the kind of training that they have; class sizes; curriculum, whether or not [teachers] are actually teaching them academic and basic skills as opposed to just having play time and coloring books,” Richard said.

Standards evaluate the curriculum, maximum class size of 20, a child to staff ratio of 10:1, bachelor’s degrees for lead teachers, special training in early childhood education for lead teachers, assistant teacher have a child development associate certificate, staff members must complete at least 15 hours of professional development annually, health and safety services offered, at least one meal a day provided for students and monitoring sessions with NIEER representatives.

Pre-kindergarten programs are important for systems because they prepare students for the setting and information that begins in kindergarten classes. Programs also help to increase the reading scores of children in later schooling, according to NIEER.

Teachers in Alabama qualify for a $36,144 starting salary if they have a bachelor’s degree and less than three years of classroom experience, a benchmark Selma City Schools also follows.

Selma teachers also have a wealth of opportunities to fine-tune teaching skills.

“There is a tremendous amount of professional development for the teachers,” said Austin Obasohan, former Selma City Schools superintendent. “It’s a way to provide them support to make them successful.”

For a complete report of Alabama schools, visit www.sreb.org.