Alaska’s Education Failures Increase Under Alaska Gov. Bill Walker

Walker has been desperately trying to change the subject by proposing to “pump more money” into the state’s “declining” education system.

Unable to run for re-election on his failed record of massive deficits, skyrocketing crime, and the highest unemployment rate in the country, Embattled Alaska Governor Bill Walker has been desperately trying to change the subject by proposing to “pump more money” into the state’s “declining” education system.

But, according to a new report in the Juneau Empire, Walker’s approach to education has already been tried and failed to result “in any discernable improvement in student achievement.” Despite Walker’s campaign promises, “Alaska’s test scores consistently rank below national averages,” with “more than 60 percent” of students failing to meet grade-level standards. Unwilling to challenge the teachers’ unions, Walker has done little to improve the state’s D- grade in teacher accountability.

Walker may try to pivot to education, but it’s clear he can’t run on his record there either. After years of his failures, Alaskans are desperate for real results, not more empty rhetoric.

The National Council on Teacher Quality is a thinktank founded in 2000 and based in Washington, D.C. that advocates for tougher evaluations of classroom teachers. They believe effective teachers should be recognized and rewarded, both monetarily and through increased opportunities for teacher leadership. Conversely, ineffective teachers should be identified and counseled, and, if unable to meet student achievement goals, dismissed.

In their 2017 survey of states ranked by implementation of best practices of teacher policies, Alaska is ranked D-, one of only four states with that grade or lower.

This survey follows Alaska’s Department of Education announcement last year that more than 60 percent of Alaska’s public school students failed to meet grade-level academic standards in English language arts and math in statewide standardized tests. Students did slightly better on the statewide science exam but barely half were considered proficient. Equally poor results were experienced by Alaska schools in 2015. Teachers and administrators acknowledge Alaska’s test scores consistently rank below national averages.

In his State of the State address, Gov. Bill Walker once again pledged his support for education. But, up to now, that hasn’t resulted in any discernable improvement in student achievement. His solution seems to be to pump more money into a declining system and expand it by offering free pre-K-12 school. Perhaps it’s time for education advocates to stop viewing issues, such as poor test scores, absenteeism and low graduation rates, through the single lens of funding and ask why a national teacher quality thinktank gave Alaska a D- grade in teacher accountability.

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