This is an opinion piece.

According to the latest rankings by U.S. News, Alabama is now the worst when it comes to education.

This is depressing.

The Yellowhammer State is ranked No. 47 in Higher Education and No. 49 in (Pre)K-12, garnering the overall crown for worst of the worst.

When Gov. Kay Ivey was asked how the issue should be addressed, she said the solution was a complete overhaul of the state’s education system, including passing legislation that would require state school board members to be appointed by her and the Legislature.

I agree with Ivey on one part. If you want a school system run by the most qualified people, then board members shouldn’t be elected. Why? The best person for the job doesn’t always win the election.

But as for a complete overhaul of the entire system? I’m not so sure.

How about figuring out where the problems lie, then cutting those out?

For example, take a look at student-teacher ratio. When I was in high school, 20 students to one teacher were considered a lot. Now, some schools have about 35 or more to one teacher. Is it possible that a single teacher can’t handle that many children and effectively educate as needed? And the time a student spends in each class period is about 45 minutes.

That’s not long enough. I’ve been a substitute teacher before, and my mother is a high school teacher. So, I understand a little better than most what teachers now go through everyday.

Let’s say the bell rings and everyone comes into the classroom, sits down and starts talking. As the teacher begins calling roll to check for absences, students begin to talk a little louder. The teacher then has to stop, calm them down and start calling roll again. About halfway down the roster, a kid decides to come in late. The teacher has to stop, ask why the kid was late, deal with him —whether that’s writing him up or just giving hime a warning — and then get back to the roll call.

By this time the rest of the class has gotten loud again. The teacher has to stop again to get them to quiet down, or else she can’t hear who is present. By the time the teacher finally gets to the end of the role and gets the classroom settled, about 15 or more crucial minutes of teaching time have already passed.

And that’s not a rare occurrence — it happens all the time.

Another thing: Want to solve the reason for our state’s rock-bottom reading and math test scores? Try making it all fun again.

When I was in school, I remember dreading the days we had to do what was called “accelerated reading” exercises. In fact, it drove me to the point of hating to read — funny considering the job I have now.

Rather than focusing on understanding what’s being read, the drill was all about how fast you could read. Pretty stupid, right?

Make it fun by providing more incentives and prizes. Bring back the days of fun games like “trash ball” spelling competitions and “Hangman” math. Get students engaged.

Sure, Gov. Ivey can push for an overhaul and fix a few things, and the Legislature can increase the budget again, too. They can even try for the lottery for the umpteenth time — though I don’t think it will make it to a vote. But the primary focus needs to take place in the classroom. Make school something kids AND teachers can get excited about and want to be a part of — a small way to help solve the growing teacher shortage outside of a pay raise.

If we don’t, well, you better settle in — we’ll be staying at the bottom of the list for another decade.

Taylor Beck is managing editor for The Reporter. He can be reached at

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