Education Feature County Schools Superintendent Shane Barnette addresses State Dept. of Education "report card" | The Cullman Tribune

Education Feature

County Schools Superintendent Shane Barnette addresses State Dept. of Education "report card"

W.C. Mann

Shane Barnette explains why he feels the state’s “report card” doesn’t tell the whole story.


When you measure a school or a school system, you've got to take into account all the wonderful things that they're doing outside of that one test.”
Cullman County Schools Superintendent Shane Barnette

CULLMAN - The Alabama State Department of Education’s (ALSDE) Alabama Accountability System at the end of December published the long-awaited and controversial 2015-2016 ALSDE “A-F Report Card,” albeit without letter grades assigned. Cullman County Schools as a whole exceeded overall state scores; however, many of the system’s schools did not fare well individually.  

(Visit to read more about the report card results. Parents can see percentile results by state, school district and school at

The Tribune sat down with Cullman County Board of Education (CCBOE) Superintendent Shane Barnette to talk about what those results say about county schools, and what they don't say.

What does this the report card tell us about the county schools?

Barnette began, "We are a really good school system.  Compared to surrounding county systems and districts throughout the state similar to our demographics, we continually achieve greater than they do.  But...being good is the worst enemy to being great.  It's very easy to say 'I'm satisfied with being good,' and I'm not."

For Barnette, being able to point elsewhere to systems with lower scores is not a bragging point; but it does put the CCBOE's published results into context.

He continued, "I think we're an exceptional school system, but it does give us room and a target to shoot for.  Is there room for improvement?  Absolutely, and we need to.  The first step in that is to make sure that every single classroom, every single day, there are excellent educational opportunities going on.  Can I say that happens in every classroom every day?  I doubt it, but that's what we're striving to do."

What does the report card not tell us?

Barnette shared, "Many states are moving away from the state-based letter grade report cards, and here we are in Alabama moving toward it, while other states have tried it and it wasn't very successful.  They decided it didn't represent everything they wanted it to represent, so they're moving away from it.  It's based on one score, a lot of it is.  Something we've been trying to do, and having a lot of discussions about in Cullman County, is that a lot of the things we do in Cullman County and are proud of can't be represented by just one test.  Our kids are successful on many levels: we consistently try to educate the whole child.  That will never show up on a report card."

Barnette lists numerous achievements on the part of students, faculty and staff in the county school system, including:

*County Career Center Culinary Arts program ranked first in the state in 2015 and 2016, and ranked top in the nation in 2015.

*Cold Springs FFA string band won state competition and placed fourth in national competition.

*Cold Springs Boys’ Cross Country team was 2015 state champion.

*Two county teams (Team MARE and Team ATTACK) won first place honors in three competitive categories in InSPIRESS (University of Alabama in Huntsville-based program promoting STEM).

*Cullman Area Technology Academy engineering students won first place in UNA's TARC rocketry challenge.

*Career Center Cosmetology and Automotive Service programs ranked first in their fields in TORCH.

*West Point Intermediate School achieved "Lighthouse" status as a "Leader in Me" school.  Lighthouse is the highest status in this student leadership development program sponsored by Franklin Covey, and West Point Intermediate is one of only 260 schools worldwide to have achieved that status.

*Additionally, Barnette shared nine awards to be announced at Thursday’s CCBOE board meeting, which the Tribune will wait until then to publish.

Barnette himself has been named by the Alabama Education Association as the 2016 Alabama Professional Developer of the Year, an award given to principals and superintendents who lead teachers to increase their base of skills and educational strategies.  He points out that the 1,500-member county school workforce is highly qualified.  While only a bachelor's degree is required to teach, CCBOE's roster includes 428 with master's degrees, 13 with doctorates, 67 education specialists and 17 national board-certified employees.

Barnette shared about several programs in the county system that are unique or have received widespread attention:

*The Health Science program at the Career Center is using a virtual reality program created by Tennessee Tech, that allows them to view inside virtual bodies to see how things work, as well as the effects of diseases.  This program was created especially for the CCBOE.

*The CCBOE is working on a partnership with Cullman Regional that will allow Health Science students to participate in clinical rotations at CRMC.  Health Science students will be able to enroll in programs at the Career Center, and graduate from high school already certified in various medical technology fields.  From there, they will be able to transition into advanced programs at Wallace State in Hanceville, or even enter the workforce immediately.

*Through "Fast Track to Industry," CCBOE partners with REHAU to send students to Wallace for both high school and industrial classes.  These students work in paid part-time positions at REHAU, and are guaranteed jobs at the company upon graduation.

*Through the CCBOE academic fast track program, qualifying juniors and seniors can take credit classes at Wallace State, and can potentially receive associate degrees at the same time they graduate from high school.  In A unique pilot program, these students might even qualify for Pell Grants.

*Through dual enrollment, students can complete a year or more of college credits at Wallace State.

*Through a partnership with Wallace State, CCBOE has created a "Fine and Performing Arts Academy."  Students can take courses in art, dance, music, theater and visual communications at Wallace at substantially reduced costs for high school and college credit.

Barnette is realistic; he understands that there is always room for improvement, including within his system.  There's no doubt, though, that he's proud of the big picture he sees.

When asked to share his final thoughts on the report card and the state of the CCBOE, Barnette stated, "When you measure a school or a school system, you've got to take into account all the wonderful things that they're doing outside of that one test.  Do we want kids to learn?  Absolutely.  I want kids to be successful, and what does that mean?  Does that mean being successful at taking standardized tests?  Not necessarily.  Not every child has to go to college.  Go get somebody to repair your vehicle or build your house, and you'll find out how much you're going to pay them to do that.  Our goal is to help kids be college and career ready.  We're working right now in our Career Center to help kids earn a certification, where they can go out of high school straight into an occupation, and be the absolute best employee they can possibly be.  If they don't want to go to college, we want to help them be successful by other means.  And that'll never show up on a report card."


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