By BOB GRIFFIN
The nation’s report card has been released. The National Assessment of Educational Progress was posted on Monday. Alaska has a lot of work to do. But we do have hope because of the Alaska Reads Act, sponsored by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, passed earlier this year.
In the 2022 NAEP test scores, Alaska’s results were disappointing. For low-income kids, Alaska scored dead last in 4th grade reading, about a year and a half behind the U.S. average and two and a half years behind Florida (top in the US) at age nine.
In 4th grade math low-income Alaska kids were 49th out of 51 — all states + DC. In 8th grade reading, Alaska was also dead last — about 1-1/2 years behind the U.S. average.
In 8th grade math, Alaska kids were 42nd — about two years below average.
Many have blamed our low-income kids for our disappointing results. But for upper and middle-income kids in Alaska the news wasn’t much better. They were second to last in 4th grade reading, 48th in 4th grade math, 42nd in 8th grade reading, and 40th in 8th grade math.
For the folks who think the kids in South Anchorage are doing fine — they’re probably wrong. The 2022 NAEP test scores, white Alaska 4th graders were about 1/2 a school year behind the scores posted in the Miami-Dade Public Schools, where 93% of the kids are ethnic minorities, 66% qualify for free or reduced lunch and 60% come from homes that English is not the only language spoken.
The good news is that the Legislature passed the Alaska Reads Act. The Reads Act was closely modeled after reading bills passed in Florida and Mississippi several years ago.
In 2022, Florida and Mississippi ranked first and second in the U.S. in NAEP low-income 4th grade reading, and third and fourth for upper and middle-income 4th grade reading. Yes, Mississippi, the poorest state in the nation, is a national leader in early childhood literacy, based on a law first passed in Florida and now also part of Alaska statute — thanks to the leadership of Gov. Dunleavy.
Bob Griffin is a senior education research fellow for Alaska Policy Forum and a member of its board of directors. A retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and former chair of the Budget Advisory Commission for the Municipality of Anchorage and the Anchorage School District, he is a board member of the Alaska State Board of Education and Early Childhood Development.