Are Alaska schools an 'education desert'? - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, September 22, 2019
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Are Alaska schools an ‘education desert’?

PEAKS TEST RESULTS FOR DISTRICTS A THROUGH K

Thirty-nine percent of Alaska students scored at a “proficient level” in English language arts, while 35.7 percent scored at a proficient level in mathematics, and 44.6 percent scored at a proficient level in science on the latest Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools assessment and Alaska Science Assessment.

The shocking numbers reveal how many students are non-proficient in Alaska schools. See the A-K districts scores below and  link to the L-Y districts’ scores here.

About 76,400 students participated in the spring 2019 PEAKS and science assessment, which gauges school improvement efforts across the state. The test was adopted in 2012, and was first administered in 2017.

Students score on a scale that is divided into four levels of achievement: advanced, proficient, below proficient, and far below proficient.

There were some good news items in the report:

  • The 2017 grade 4 student class achieved growth over three years in English language arts proficiency.
    In Grade 4, they scored 38.8 percent proficient. By Grade 6 they had improved to 45.5 percent proficient.
  • Also, Grade 9 students in 2019 achieved a 5.2 percent increase in math proficiency than Grade 9 students tested in 2018. This was the second year the Grade 9 math PEAKS assessment emphasized Algebra 1 concepts.
  • Those who are English learners improved slightly in both English language arts and math proficiency, improving in English language arts by nearly a percent year over year, up to 9.9 percent proficient.
  • Eighth-graders who took the science test in 2017 scored 46.9 percent proficient. For the same class, when they took the 10th grade science test, they improved to 53.6 percent proficient.

Here are the Spring PEAKS results for Districts A-K:

Alaska Gateway School District: 85.96% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 87.71% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Aleutian Region School District: 58.33% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 75.00% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Aleutian East School District: 8.03% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 68.03% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Anchorage School District: 57.78% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 60.56% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Annette Island School District: 71.52% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 73.94% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Bering Strait School District: 93.33%  below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 91.07% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Bristol Bay Borough School District: 79.25% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 74.55% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Chatham Strait School District: 62.50% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 67.82% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Chugach School District: 61.08% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 83.13% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Copper River School District: 54.42% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 61.50% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Cordova School District: 47.24% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 53.99% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Craig School District: 59.09% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 70.35% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Delta / Greely School District: 48.58% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 44.55% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Denali Borough School District: 44.39% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 58.25% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Dillingham School District: 69.04% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 68.62% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District: 58.16% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 60.70% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Galena School District: 41.04% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 66.29% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Haines Borough School District: 35.43% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 55.56% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Hoonah School District: 79.37% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 77.42% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Hydaburg School District: 81.40% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 88.37% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Iditarod School District: 87.50% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 91.51% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Juneau School District: 53.72% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 59.12% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Kake School District: 47.27% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 65.45% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Kashunamiut School District: 98.24% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 97.66% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Kenai Peninsula School District: 52.32% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 50.07% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District: 53.56% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 56.27% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Klawock City School District: 76.79% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 83.93% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Kodiak Island Borough School District: 59.26% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 59.93% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

Kuspuk School District: 90.16% below proficient to far-below proficient in English; 89.12% non proficient to far-below proficient in math.

[L-Y districts linked here]

STANDARD TESTS, COMMON CORE

Education Week reports that there’s a steady erosion in the number of states using the PARCC or Smarter Balanced Common Core aligned tests, with five fewer this year than in 2018. Alaska is the only state using the PEAKS test.

Common Core was all the educational rage a decade ago, when 45 states were planning to use it by implementing the PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessments. Today, only 16 states are using those tests.

[See Education Week‘s fourth survey of state tests since 2014.]

Like Alaska, 31 other states use “non-Common Core consortium” tests. The number of states that require students to take college admissions tests or pass an exit exam to graduate is unchanged from 2017.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • We have the worst public education outcomes money can buy. In Anchorage the ASD even has a former local teacher union president on the board.

    But they have no shame…

    • ….BUT…. ask the youngsters about gay marriage, transexual experience, homosexuality, taking a knee at sports games, man-caused global heating, racism, the evil Donald Trump, nasty Republicans, SnapChat, sexting, and Pornhub on the internet…..and Alaska kids are at the top of the heap. All thanks to Democrats and their ultra-wacked-out political agenda.

      • …..don’t forget marijuana. Alaska’s lefties teach this subject to their kids better than anyone.

    • No, we have the best money can buy. There is nothing wrong with the material and the way it is being presented in the classroom. Point your finger in another direction.

      • Then what the hell is the problem? If it’s not the teachers, then it must be the students? What happened to “if the student hasn’t learned, then the teacher hasn’t taught”?

  • And some say that vetoing any amount of money from the appropriation for K-12 education is unconstitutional. I say that, based on the results, such appropriations may not serve a “public purpose.” If it is the case that things may have to get worse before they get better, let the lawsuits commence!

  • Never forget who is the Father of Public Education from the very beginning. Horance Mann, who was extremely good friends with Karl Marx, the Founder of Communism. The Public Schools are doing just what they were designed to do. Dumb Down every generation just a little bit more and more each year. There is no use in attempting to improve the Public Schools. There is not enough time in your life. Just pull your children out and Home School them. That was what was done in the beginning and it worked. You create them, you feed them and you educate them. Seymour Marvin Mills sui juris

  • Public schools are not the problem. We spend more than enough to get far better educational outcomes. The responsibility for these dismal results rests with parents. Parents who are absent. Parents who are indifferent. And parents who themselves are not proficient in language and math skills. Some say we need firearm background checks. I say we need procreation background checks. It is far too easy to make another human being and then ignore related future responsibilities. All that said, those who leave the public school system less than proficient, and far less than proficient, are our future criminals and public assistant candidates.

    • Funny you say that. As a parent of 3 with my youngest graduating last May, I would beg to differ.

      Clearly there is a fundamental problem and until the teachers unions stop blaming the parents and the parents still blaming the teachers, it will never be fixed.

      In my mind, the issue is that there is no money to be had for schools that test highly. It all goes to schools that underperform. In a day and age where simply participating is enough, where’s the incentive to excel. 😉

    • Landshark, You do know, don’t you, that blaming the parents is the new NEA/AFT Education Industry model. Would you blame a customer for buying a lemon car? Would you blame the customer for lemon electronics? Would you blame the customer for failing software? NO. So let’s stop blaming the parents for a mediocre K12 education system. If you want to blame the parents for a mediocre K12 education system, then just give them the state/local funds for their child, let them choose a better education fit, and them hold them accountable for results. Unfortunately, the Education Industry has become surrogate parents. It provides meals, social services, counseling, clothes, backpacks, and expects the parents to “become involved” in their kid’s education. PreK is another fine example of the Education Industry wanting to displace parents of their responsibilities and then wonders why parents are not involved! The K12 education system has lost focus on its core mission–educating students.

  • Since the Molly Hootch Consent Decree the Alaska courts have been the enabler of choice for unaccountable educrats who dumb down each successor class of Alaskans.

    Smart parents pull their kids from Mickey Mouse Alaska high school at age 16 and help them get their GED.com. By passing the 4 tests they can move onto a career while peers are playing High School at the teacher union hiring hall.

  • Don’t blame the schools. You obviously don’t have a clue what is going on in Alaska.

    • Greg, I don’t blame the teachers. I blame Jimmy Carter starting the federal Department of Education. Ever since then, the feds have meddled into public schools. Every time a new president is elected, the federal DoED changes the rules at K-12 and colleges/universities. The feds have tried to impose a one-size fit-all across the board, in every state. This obviously isn’t working.
      .
      It seems to me that public schools in the nation will never get better until A) we end the federal DoED and put control back to state/local level, B) ending the teacher unions; and C) cutting some of the administrators so the funds can go back to the actual schools and teachers.
      .
      When I say ending the federal DoED, I don’t mean ending federal funding to schools. I specifically mean ending the federal involvement of how and what to teach students. Funding schools is a constitutional mandate. Meddling with curriculum isn’t.

      • There is nothing about funding schools in the US Constitution. It should strictly be a State issue.

        • Yes, you’re right. I agree that it should be a state issue, like I said in my above post. I should have made it clear that Alaska’s Constitution gives the legislature control of funding public schools. At the federal level though, it will be nearly impossible to totally abolish the DoED. It would, hopefully, be easier to just abolish the federal meddling and passing one-size fit-all molds and curriculum, like Common Core. That’s what I was driving at. Thank you for helping clarify my post!

  • When parents stopped turning off TVs, cell phones and video games, when they stopped asking what their kids have for homework and what did they do at school today, their children quit learning. When a teachers no longer has the ability to to teach core areas because they are feeding kids, teaching them how to brush their teeth and how to wash their hands, children quit learning math, English and science. When kids come to school cold, hungry and tired they can’t learn. When there is violence and drugs in the home, kids cannot learn. How often do kids get outside to play, to burn off energy so they can sit and concentrate on school work? It isn’t just bad teachers. Most teachers believe in education and all that teaching encompasses. They believe in their students but they are trying to teach children that come into schools impossibly far behind so they struggle to catch up. Teachers can’t give hugs or hacks. They have such large class sizes their students don’t receive the individual attention they need. I think the curriculum is dummied down because kids are coming to school with no foundation to learning. They are so busy trying to get kids “up to speed” that those able to move ahead are held back. I don’t know what the answer is to the poor outcomes of education but it isn’t more money for higher salaries. It needs to be for smaller class sizes and less upper administrative salaries. Put that money into enough text books for each child, enough crayons and paper. And we should be asking “what happened to parenting and being responsible for teaching your children how to tie their shoes and how to count to ten and feeding them?” It doesn’t count to simply make children. They need someone to raise them and prepare them for school and to teach them good manners and to feed them. It makes me sad when I see Americans, not just Alaskans, throwing away our children.

    • Barngirl53. Well stated. Here is another point. Do you suppose that the education bureaucrats want to displace parents of their responsibilities and thus the K12 education system becomes surrogate parents? Unfortunately, the teachers suffer because of this and cannot, as you say, teach the basics. Thanks for your words. Every classroom should have a good to great teacher. Every child deserves that.

    • Homework was suggested by William Torrey Harris for the sole purpose of “separating kids from their parents, traditions, religions, community and culture.” Divide and conquer. In order to control the kids, the school (aka the government) needed to become the parents.

  • Greg, sounds like you want the next generation of Alaskans to be dumbed down to the bottom of the well. Most people will disagree with you. Politics and the agenda of the Left is going to harm our state and our country. The teachers unions dont give a damn about kids not being able to balance checkbooks, enunciate correctly, or write logical paragraphs. It’s only about political correctness, feeling good, and joining the Democratic Party…..right, Greg? What a selfish, destructive position to take. Shameful!

    • You’re barking up the wrong tree.

      • Another terse one-liner. How about fleshing it out a bit for us Greg?

      • You are hiding behind the tree!

  • If we could see charts on how the different ethnicities do on the tests we’d learn a lot more. But that is off the table.

    • James Mason, are you saying that Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders, and other non-whites cannot learn? Unbelievable, just unbelievable.

  • We now have enough generations of Alaska public education failure that blaming the parents says more about the union teachers who try to pass the buck then it does about Alaska parents. Our annual flood of poor Outside teacher wannabes-here for full year pay for part-year work, Cadillac benefits and an Alaska Adventure to retire from-means we can’t expect much to change.

    It is up to parents to insist Gov. Dunleavy address this issue…

  • I know how to fix our education system, if anybody is interested. One of the best parts of the program is that it’s free. I can teach your child in 3 months what public schools fail to do in 12 years.

  • You must be joking. The TRS is a joke in that teachers will never be able to afford to retire. Oh sure, if someone got in on tier one then they’re sitting pretty. As far as teacher wannabes, you just showed your own ignorance by saying that. Most teachers that come here are dedicated professionals. Yes, they are drawn to Alaska for adventure and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sounds like you want Alaska all to yourself and everybody else can GTFO. There are many things that contribute to low test scores. What teachers in the bush do is prepare students for life. If they’re going to fish, then they’re going to be prepared to be the best fisherman out there. If they’re going to learn a trade, they need to be prepared as well, as they can so that they can support themselves and their family eventually. There’s more to life than passing a test. Anyone who’s been to the bush completely understands that. Anyone who hasn’t doesn’t truly understand the nature of Alaska.

  • Well Judie, since you called me out I will respond. I want nothing better then the kids to excel as much as they possibly can. Also do some research and you will see which side of the table I said at. Unions bring nothing to the table these days. I’ve never needed a union to get a decent day’s wage for a decent day’s work. I have friends that are Democrats but Id never accept an invitation to join their party. It’s not what I believe in. So Judie, let’s see if you got this right now Republican check, fiscally responsible check anti-union check, pro kids check, anti loudmouth idiot check.

  • “Are Alaska schools an ‘education desert’?”
    .
    Good analogy when one realizes customers are right at the bottom of that food chain.
    .
    Looks like home schooling or private schooling might be the only alternatives.
    .
    Take enough children out of what looks like little more than government-operated day care, Alaska’s education industry might collapse under its own weight; not necessarily a bad thing.
    .
    Wonder how the minority of children who apparently achieved some level of functional literacy were able to do so…

  • It’s amazing how many folks think they have the answer when in fact, they don’t have a clue what education in Alaska is all about. You have to live the challenges.

  • Your sanctimony is duly noted. You show your ignorance with blanket statement declaring your opinions as more noble than all others.

    Arrogant government tachers are the worst teachers.

  • I am compelled to comment.
    Disclosure: Retired Ak Teacher
    In all the finger pointing I read above, only once was administration mentioned.
    Administrations in many businesses are not serving the purpose for which they were created. Teaching became more about proving I was a capable teacher than supporting what I was doing – teaching. Hours are spent in mandated meetings to inform teachers what they need to provide to prove a passing jump through a hoop created for their measurement. Hoops change @ 5 years. Admin. Creates/Applies/Assesses making themselves important. So much stress and time and energy away from doing lesson plans and prep for students to walk into a dynamic learning environment.

    I was naive when I began my career. Admin. Supports teachers – right? No. It’s top down politics. Huge difference in salaries and purpose. What does a top administrator actually ‘do’ for that six figure salary?

    Isn’t it common knowledge that students with informed/involved parents succeed? No blame.
    Ms.H

  • Good Admin does support the staff. They are responsible for the entire school. Budget, safety, teacher evaluations, parent etc. Let’s not judge until you have walked in those shoes.

  • Something is really missing here. Have any of the people making comments here about “failing” schools and students actually seen this test? Do you even know what the test is testing for? For that matter, we are just assuming that we understand what “proficient” means. We don’t. Does it mean they understood 60% of the material? 75%? 90%? We have no idea. There is no context. So please, before anyone attacks teachers, parents, or students for being “failures,” get educated.

    Pun intended.

  • The test measures academic achievement nationwide . Are. you suggesting our practices and performance is beyond that of other states so the test shouldn’t matter?

    That may be the teacher union propaganda but parents shouldn’t accept such a basic fallacy.

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