Local school official weighs in on state's failing schools list

Dr. Craig Witherspoon, Birmingham City Schools Superintendent. (

Birmingham Superintendent Craig Witherspoon and Jefferson County Superintendent Stephen Nowlin say they would rather not have a single school on this list. But they are looking at the glass half full. nThey say, even though some schools are considered failing, many of the them have made gains. They say they want that to be the focus.

"Schools that have made twenty point gains in the last couple of years, that's not a failing school. That's a school that is focused, that's looking at their data. That's moving students. And we do need to recognize that," said Witherspoon.

Doctor Witherspoon says there is proven progress being made in the eleven Birmingham schools that are on the failing schools list. An uptick can be seen between the years 2007 and 2012.

"Every school in the district, and certainly the schools on this list, have shown improvement," he said.

Still, that does not negate the fact they are considered failing. Under the Accountability Act, schools are failing if they are listed three or more times in the lowest sixth percent on standardized reading and math scores within the last six years.

Now parents have the option to take their children out of those schools. But Witherspoon says he doesn't foresee a mass exodus from Birmingham schools because he says they have attractive programs in place. "We've put seven career academies in six of our high schools. Everything from engineering to design and construction to business and finance. So we're creating a diverse portfolio of offerings for our parents," he said.

In Jefferson County, Brighton and Center Point Middle Schools are on the list. Superintendent Doctor Stephen Nowlin says he believes schools that have made recent gains should have been omitted. "I think they should have been left off the list. I don't think Brighton should have been on the list, but I understand perfectly the state department had to do it. Because the criteria was low test scores in three of the last six years being in the low percent three of the last six years," said Nowlin.

Witherspoon says what's troubling about the accountability act is even with gains it could be several years before school gets off the list because it goes back six years.

To view the complete interview with Superintendent Craig Witherspoon go to this page

For the list of the 29 failing schools in our viewing area go to this page