Alaska State Board of Education lowers proficiency standards for Alaska’s students

Alaska’s school proficiency standards have taken a hit. The Alaska Board of Education, under the guidance of the Dunleavy Administration, has decided to lower the bar for what is considered proficient on the Alaska System of Academic Readiness (AK STAR) tests. Now, before you get all riled up, let’s take a closer look at what this means and why it’s happening.

DEED Commissioner Deena Bishop wants to make it clear that lowering the standards doesn’t mean Alaska’s education system is subpar. She argues that it simply brings Alaska in line with the top third of states, rather than being at the top. But let’s not forget that there was a time when Alaska students were at the top in national standardized tests. Back in the 1990s, only rural schools were consistently performing in the 25th to 30th percentiles. Since then, proficiency has steadily declined, and now Alaska has some of the worst test scores in the nation.

This decline is not exclusive to Alaska. The fall of 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results showed that math and reading scores for fourth graders in the United States have taken a nosedive. We’ve wiped out all the incremental gains made since 2005 in math and since 1992 in reading. It’s a troubling trend that we need to address.

The Alaska Policy Forum has been keeping tabs on Alaska’s school performance, and the numbers are concerning, to say the least. According to their research, fourth graders in Alaska dropped six points in math and eighth graders dropped four points on the NAEP. That’s a loss of more than half a year of math learning for fourth graders and nearly as much for eighth graders. Reading scores are also lagging behind the national average, with Alaska’s fourth graders about a full year behind. Only 28% of fourth graders were proficient in math, and a mere 24% were proficient in reading in 2022.

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Now, let’s talk about the changes in standardized assessments. Alaska has been through a series of assessments over the years, which makes it difficult to compare results accurately. From the Standards Based Assessment (SBA) to the Alaska Measures of Progress, and now the AK STAR, it’s been a bumpy road. Technical disruptions, test cancellations, and the impact of the pandemic have all thrown a wrench in the works.

So, what does all of this mean for you, the reader? Well, it’s clear that our education system is in need of some serious attention. Our students are falling behind, and we can’t afford to let that trend continue. As citizens, we have a responsibility to demand better for our children. We need to hold our policymakers accountable and push for meaningful reforms that prioritize student success.

If you’re a parent, get involved in your child’s education. Stay informed about what’s happening in your school district and advocate for higher standards. Support organizations like the Alaska Policy Forum that are working to improve education in our state. And let’s not forget the power of our vote. Elect officials who prioritize education and are committed to making real changes.

In conclusion, Alaska’s education system is at a crossroads. Lowering proficiency standards may give the illusion of improvement, but it’s not a sustainable solution. We need to aim higher and demand more from our schools. Let’s work together to ensure that every student in Alaska has access to a quality education that prepares them for success.

And as we reflect on the importance of education, let me leave you with a relevant Bible verse from Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Our children are the future, and it’s our duty to give them the tools they need to thrive.

Remember, education is the key to unlocking a brighter future. Stay tuned for updates on this story, and let’s keep fighting for a better education system in Alaska.

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