Stroll through Alaska’s startling education statistics



This column is the first of four-part series exploring current data presented on the Department of Education and Early Development website. The data is the State’s and a result of individual districts and schools reporting on various components of attendance, proficiency, and expenses. 

Last month, I had a conversation with a very educated and articulate person who has children in our local Eagle River schools.

I had mentioned that I chair the Alaska Republican Party Districts 13 (Chugiak) and 14 (Eagle River), as well as EAGLEXIT, an organization proposing the detachment from the Municipality of Anchorage and incorporation as a separate municipality.

As the Republican chair, I was calling people about our District Convention on Feb. 22 and I struck up a friendly conversation.  In my discussion, I was impressed at the certainty and conviction this person shared with me regarding Alaska’s political atmosphere as well as its government services, especially public education.  

I considered for some time how this person praised our public schools. I had just published a column on the problems in Alaska’s education system.

As a result of that conversation, I reviewed Alaska’s education system a bit more to see if my first article missed important information.

This link is a website that provides valuable public information for Alaskans to review the current status of our government schools and school districts in both the Unorganized Borough and the Organized Borough.

It is organized by district and then categorized by individual school. The link to the individual school has the name of the school, the attendance rate, grades served, number of students, average math and English language arts proficiencies in percentage, and number of teachers.  

What is also revealed on this website is each school’s “Overall School Index Value”, “Safety & Well Being”, “Teacher Quality”, and “Student Demographics.”  We’ll talk about these in another column soon to come.  

Here’s what anyone can discover on this website:  

  • Alaska has a total of 18 School Districts in the Organized Borough.
  • The state has 36 school districts in the Unorganized Borough.
  • That is a total of 54 school districts.
  • The Organized Borough has 323 schools.
  • The Unorganized Borough has 180 schools.
  • The total number of Alaska schools is 503.
  • The Organized Borough has approximately 104,575 students and approximately 5,996 teachers. 
  • The Unorganized Borough has approximately 22,794 students and approximately 1,450 teachers.  
  • Teacher-student-ratio in the Organized Borough is 17.44:1
  • Teacher-student ratio in the Unorganized Borough 15.72:1. 
  • The national average teacher-studio ratio is 16:1.
  • Attendance average for the Organized Borough is 92.69%.
  • Attendance average in the Unorganized Borough is 91.24%.

The next set of data is startling, sad, and frightening:  

  • Average math proficiency in the Organized Borough is 39.45%.
  • Average math proficiency in the Unorganized Borough it is 25.17%.
  • Average English language arts proficiency in the Organized Borough is 44.30%.
  • Average English language arts proficiency in the Unorganized Borough it is 28.85%.

In other words, more than 60 out of every 100 children in the Organized Borough and almost 75 out of every 100 children in the Unorganized Borough are not meeting state average math proficiency.

More than 55 out of every 100 children in the Organized Borough and more than 71 out of every 100 children in the Unorganized Borough are not meeting state average ELA proficiency.  

This is from the state’s own website, a stark representation of the current state of education for the entire state.

Would anyone reviewing these statistics from the State’s own website reach the reasonable conclusion that Alaska is knowingly raising a functionally illiterate future citizenry?

Michael Tavoliero is a realtor at Core Real Estate Group in Eagle River, is active in the Alaska Republican Party and chairs Eaglexit. 


  1. Principals, Teachers, Parents; Tell me one more time that the Public School System is not broken!!! What about Reading and Penmanship??? Oh that’s right, we now have computers that don’t require anyone to even learn to spell or capitalize because the computer corrects spelling and capitalization is no longer important. What about phonics?? Learning to spell by sound instead of sight. Karl Marx is really smiling today folks. Also. that is what the English did to the Irish and one reason why the Irish fled to America in the 1700’s and 1800’s. Keep the Irish dumb so they can be managed and controlled. The Potato Famine was another reason because the English starved the Irish down to where the only thing they had room enough to grow was potatoes. “God brought on the Famine, but the English starved the Irish.” There were lots of people in England that wanted to save the Irish but the “Nobles” said, “Let the Irish starve.” If the “Nobles” in the Democrat Party today had that power, would they not do the same thing?? Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

  2. Well, has anyone here actually taken these tests? Does anyone know what kind of questions are being asked, and what it actually means to be “proficient?” Scores from the MAP or another nationally normed test would be a much better marker for me to judge the districts by. Until then, I’ll withhold judgement.

    Also, it bothers me when people just complain. I hope that in one of these columns the author will make some real proposals, instead of just talking about how bad our schools are.

    As for me, my kids go to great Mat-Su schools. Their teachers are excellent, hard-working professionals. I don’t care what the test scores say, I know their schools are exceptional.

    • AK Transplanted: You are lucky your kids have excellent teachers. Unfortunately, there are thousands of kids who have less-than-good teachers and their futures are being stolen by the K12 public education system. BTW, the national NAEP test shows that Alaska’s 4th graders rank dead last in reading in the 50 states and Washington, D.C.. Alaska’s K12 system has been mediocre at best for the last 15 years. Parents and all Alaskans have been mislead by the education industry and the State of AK into believing that the state has a great K12 system. The poor and minority kids are being cheated and no one knows.

    • You’re deluded! Your kids don’t go to great schools. The best schools in Alaska produce kids that need remedial courses and take five or six years to get a useless four-year degree.

  3. The number of damaged and abandoned children in our schools who are unable or unwilling to learn, due to the trauma they have suffered, has to be addressed outside of the education system. We have a huge problem in our society due to drugs and lack of parenting accountability/training. How many kids like this are in the education system that are dragging down the numbers and hindering others from learning? The schools, like the jails, cannot be a dumping ground for the discarded and mentally ill that our society is cranking out in ever increasing numbers. imho

    • Mark, you sound like a person in the know. You may be onto something. The public education system is not broken. It works fine for me and mine. Is produced a master’s degree and a doctorate in my family. If the system was broken that would not have been possible. Good parenting skills that hold children accountable are a must supplement that needs to work with public education.

    • Time to stop blaming the parents and kids–something the teachers unions do. Give parents the information to know how well/poorly their schools are doing. Then give them the choice to send their kids to a school of their choice. If you hold parents responsible, then you must give them a choice of schools, public or private.

    • Lots of problems with public ed, and Mike has just touched on a few. I would like to add that cultures who do not value education are a large part of the problem. Using schools as social experiments/propaganda are a bigger part of the problem. Can we teach kids that drugs are uncool without tempting them to try it? Can we teach them how to survive and enjoy life with out drugs, alcohol, and tobacco? Can we teach them that sex has consequences without Planned Parenthood telling us it doesn’t matter, just come to them? I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said, “He who controls the schools controls the future.” Our cultures are sick, and we need to find a/the way to bring about a cure. Leftism isn’t working.

  4. “I had just published a column on the problems in Alaska’s education system. ”
    Michael, where can this column be found?

  5. That’s what you get with twenty (or more) years of Republican government that believes public education is overpriced, teachers should be paid appalling wages, and religious schools should be subsidized.
    This isn’t hard, folks. The Finns had a system that didn’t work. They changed it. Now others are starting to catch on. And don’t give me this nonsense that because it works in Finland it won’t work here. What we have now isn’t working very well, is it?

    • I always hate ruining a good rant, but we spend more on education than just about anyone else out there. So if “twenty (or more) years of Republican government that believes public education is overpriced, teachers should be paid appalling wages, and religious schools should be subsidized” then that “Republican government” sure isn’t very “Republican” is it.

      • They have to pay. The state requires that villages educate their kids. There are a lot of villages. It cost a disproportionate amount per pupil, but that’s the cost of taking their land.
        I don’t like it, especially since village education has been linked to cultural indoctrination.
        The system is broken, but the Repubs aren’t interested in fixing it. I’m not sure the Dems are, either.
        The underlying issue here is that public school education has become politicized. It’s not innately a Repub. vs. Dem issue, but money will make a difference. Imagine the choices we would have if a beginning teacher were paid $150/yr. We’d have them lining up. And if we didn’t have pols telling teachers what to do.
        ‘Course, that doesn’t insure that teachers would be good. That would be the job of the educational managers, the ones who know what they are doing, like Finland. They’ve fixed a system that wasn’t working. Is it perfect? No, but they are making progress.
        You are right, It isn’t just about the money, but if there isn’t enough money to sustain the system, failure is the only option.

    • Greg R. The great teachers are underpaid and the mediocre and worse are overpaid. The budgeted salary/benefits for an Anchorage teacher is $100,000 and has been for years. BTW, Finland is a homogeneous demographic and their kids don’t start school until they are 7 years old. Now, explain how preK will solve all our problems like the unions believe.

      • I’m with you on the Pre-K thing. Kids in Finland don’t start until about 7 y/o, they get about ten minute of r&r every hour. The good students coach the underachievers. The teachers collaborate; they will swap students if they think it will help. They’re practicing basic problem solving. Not hard if you aren’t betting heads with everyone. The students do well.
        I think you will find that Finland is not as homogenous as it once was. They have been received refugees. A lot of them are students in the school system.

    • Throwing money at it with out systemic change is just another failure and is waiting to happen all the more so.

  6. Home School is the one and only answer to our current Socialist public school system, which was never a success, founded by Horace Mann, who was extremely good friends with Karl Marx, the founder of Communism. It is the parents’ duty to educate their children and teach them what our country was founded on. A constitutional republic with individual rights and liberties and free enterprise to govern our every day living. Not a democracy which is founded on “majority rule,” which is 51.1 % demanding the remaining 49.9 % follow the majority.

    Everyone needs to read the “Federalist Papers” written by James Madison, the father of the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the “Supreme Court of the United States”.

    Santana once stated, “Those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it”. Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

    • SEYMOUR – Again, as I continue to point out – Marx’s friend was Horace Greeley, a labor leader, and not Horace Mann! Opinions are important, but you continue to spread this line of misinformation – please correct it.

  7. We average 5 schools per school district in the unorganized boroughs. Some have only two schools. So we are paying for a superintendent and staff to administer a couple of schools? We should have seven schools districts, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Mat-Su, Southeast, interior (minus Fairbanks), North Slope and Western Alaska. Think of the savings with 47 fewer superintendents and staff.

    • Bob, I agree with this idea but I would put Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak together and make 8 instead of 7.

  8. I was called an enemy of education in the mid 80s in Eagle River when I demanded a curriculum audit in a public meeting concerning the quality of education of the Anchorage School District. (I have both a BS & Masters)

    My kids where in the Anchorage School District at the time.

    I first saw the failure of public education in 1957 in the Firelands of northern Ohio.

    It has gotten much worse with public education run by self serving morons these days.

  9. Charter schools: The money follows the child.
    I hear it’s working well in many places in the country. And with much less indoctrination.

  10. I stand corrected on Horance Mann being good friends with Karl Marx, but the Public School system that Horance Mann created and the N.E.A./John Dewey control, is most definitely founded on Socialism which is the root of Communism/Fascism/Nazism. John Dewey was an avowed Socialist and the N.E.A. supports him whole heartedly. No where in “The Constitution of the United States” is the Public School ever mentioned. Our Founders were vey careful on naming all the powers of this government. It also guaranteed a “Republican Form of Government” to every State in Article IV, Section 4. This form of government is meant to do for the people only what they can not do for themselves. “The Constitution of the United States” was written by people educated in home schools, and in most cases they learned reading from the Holy Bible. Since our Founders were educated enough to write this beautiful document, should we not educate our own children the same way in Home School? Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

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