MUSCLE SHOALS — The state's new superintendent of education discussed Monday the system's new standardized testing vendor, as well as a desire to bring more focus toward elementary mathematics.

Eric Mackey spoke at Muscle Shoals High School during a teacher in-service day ahead of the city system's school year, which starts Thursday.

Mackey became superintendent in May.

He recommended using the Data Recognition Corporation to distribute standardized tests for Alabama's K-12 students. The state school board approved the recommendation this month.

"We are finally getting a long-term assessment system that makes sense and can give you an idea which direction to go," he said. "We are trying to get the best assessment that will combine the best of all of these. We want a flawless system."

The goal is to retire 25 percent of the questions used in the test each year. That way, there will be a completely different set of questions every four years, Mackey said.

He added schools could use the retired questions for practice tests, and as part of their curriculums.

The state will roll out the new system by spring 2020, he said.

Other changes

Mackey said the state is aligning with the National Assessment of Educational Progress framework for its math program, which he wants to be a focal point throughout public school systems in Alabama.

"We'll spend a couple of years focusing on math, especially elementary math," he said.

The new superintendent also is seeking a new Student Information System.

"It is going to be a more seamless and better-working system than in the past," Mackey said.

He said he has a goal of establishing a teacher certification and recertification system that would be more user-friendly for the teachers.

Mackey said cutbacks have dwindled department personnel numbers, and there sometimes is a backlog of calls to the state department that numbers into the thousands, which is frustrating to teachers that are seeking certification.

"By next year we're going to be working on an easier teacher certification/recertification system," Mackey said.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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