Alaska educators have some explaining to do


Now that Betsy DeVos is confirmed as Education Secretary, thanks to an historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence, conservatives hope for some big disruptive changes to the way we do education in this country.

Because what’s been going on for the past 20 years is obviously not working.

A study by the University of Alaska shows that even students taking college preparatory classes in Alaska high schools — and getting good grades in them — are having to take remedial work once they get to the University of Alaska.

The study concluded:

  • Students are passing college prep courses in high school with high grades, then repeating those classes when they arrive at the university
  • The state is spending millions of dollars annually for students to take classes in high school, and paying again when the courses must be repeated at the university
  • Students and their families spend millions of dollars in additional educational costs because the students arrive at the university unprepared.

The following chart has the breakdown of various schools around the state.

Note that Eielson, Grace Christian, Stellar Alternative, and Frontier Charter School are among those whose students require less remedial coursework when they arrive at University of Alaska, but schools such as Bartlett High in Anchorage, and uber-liberal Juneau-Douglas High School, in one of the most well-educated communities in the state, have some of the worst results:

“If you’re put into a developmental course, the chances that you’ll ever get a degree are very low, and that’s just wrong,” UA President Jim Johnsen said, who is facing his own union teacher revolt. The faculty senate voted “no confidence” in the president, who has had to manage declining budgets since he took over in 2015. The faculty group said that high turnover and low morale among teachers in the university system are  “fundamental threats to the continuation of UAA as a high-quality institution and negatively impact mission fulfillment.”

The conclusion from the study is that Alaska teachers are simply passing students through, giving them good grades even if they have not earned them, and are not having to be accountable for the abysmal results the University of Alaska is seeing.

It’s tough to generate much sympathy for college professors these days as they crank out their “snowflake” graduates and as they suppress free speech on campus. But we’re trying.