Bob Griffin: Alaska Reads Act is up for the challenge shown by national reading assessment scores



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.

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  1. Just encourage parents and grandparents read to the children starting at birth or at utero. The dated juvenile literature is better for kids its language and illustrations have higher literary content. When the child is a baby-baby no harm reading chapter story to him for quiet time as napping, nursing, sleeping. When i nursed and bedtimes i read entire ingall-wilder series. Its not like the infant can go anywhere, yet. Besides stories develops a closer bond between parent and child.

    • Good strategy, my child was reading chapter books by kindergarten using your method. So many modern children’s books lack content and a child is not going to learn to read by plucking him or her on the couch with a computer “learning “ game. This and the tv may give the parents a break, but they do little for the child. They need parental interaction. When it’s part of the daily ritual it gains meaning.

  2. Sure looks like that new legislation is working. Less than a year and we’re already dead last! Goooo legislators!

    Next they should make it unlawful to be a poor reader. That’ll teach those kids.

    • The Alaska Reads Act doesn’t really kick in until next school year. DEED has to put out regulations, they need to be “approved” by the public. Then implemented. So, let’s take a look at the PEAKS (State’s test) test scores in 2024. It seems like a long time but things must improve.

      • That’s why parents and grandparents must start reading to their children now. If they can be pressured to wear masks or accept crt and lgbt , then they can be peer pressured to read to and with their child. Like ‘read to your child so he doesn’t grow up a dummy.’ you get the idea.

      • Good point, don’t judge unless it’s given a chance. Yet again, let’s not give the total responsibility to the education system. Parents need to do their part and turn off the “gizmos “ and spend time with their children. Monkey see, monkey do.

      • Then why is a program that hasn’t yet been effective being lauded as a great thing? You have to accomplish something before you crow about it, no?

  3. Thanks for the great comparison between Alaska, Florida and Mississippi. This really confronts the argument that the rural schools bring down Alaska’s NAEP scores. It seems as if even the wealthy kids are not learning to achieve their maximum potential. It is just amazing that Mississippi has moved from a pretty much bottom feeder in 4th grade reading to second place for low income children. Conclusion: Yes, poor kids can read!

  4. Get your kids out of public schools where basket weaving and sex education leads to not employable and the dumbing down of Americas kids. Just think these are the future of America can’t read or write but can tell you their sexual preferences.

  5. All of this discussion reminds me of my own childhood and how it differed so much from what is now confronting our kids. First of all, the electronic devices like cell phones, computers and internet have served to draw kids away from books. The movies are also at fault. We had stories rooted in historical events which we then went to the library to find out more about. That is not the case now with these super hero movies. My parents had a substantial library, while most parents no longer buy books because of cost and lack of interest. History classes in school are usually taught in a bored manner without encouraging interest in why an historical event really happened. And until Covid exposed the CRT and LGBT agenda in school being pushed by the NEA we had no idea why the kids were so much more anti-adult. And if this agenda has been pushed for the last ten years, maybe someone should start asking if this has contributed to the mass shootings we see so much more of. If a kid’s mind is so messed up by people he is supposed to trust, like teachers, then we need to take back our society and re-instill values such as had work, curiosity, and respect. My friend of more than 20 years home-schooled her 5 children, now happily grown up and all with advanced college degrees and families of their own. Finally we have to look to the school boards and see what they are permitting in their schools. Maybe that starts with either firing some of these school boards or pressuring them to change their course. Parents should still be in control.

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