Alarming Decline in Alaska Student Proficiency: Addressing the Education Crisis

Education is the bedrock of any society, and it is crucial that we provide our children with the tools they need to succeed. Unfortunately, the recent data obtained by the Alaska Policy Forum reveals a concerning trend in student proficiency across the state. The data, which covers the period between 2009 and 2021, shows a decline in student proficiency in both reading and math, regardless of economic disadvantage.

The Importance of Standardized Assessments Standardized assessments have long been used to measure student proficiency and track progress over time. In Alaska, statewide summative assessments have been administered to students for decades. These assessments provide valuable insights into student performance and help identify areas that need improvement.

Changes in Standardized Assessments Over the years, Alaska has made several changes to its standardized assessments. From the paper-based Standards Based Assessment (SBA) to the computerized Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP), the state has sought to ensure that its assessments accurately reflect student abilities.

One important consideration when analyzing the data is the switch from the SBA to the AMP. The SBA had more permissive standards compared to the rest of the United States. Therefore, the significant drops in proficiency between the 2013-2014 SBA and the 2014-2015 AMP were not due to a sudden decline in student abilities. Instead, it revealed the sobering reality that Alaska’s students were struggling throughout the entire period under examination.

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Another factor to consider is the format of the assessments. The SBA had separate reading and writing tests, while the AMP, PEAKS, and AK STAR combined reading and writing into a single English Language Arts (ELA) assessment. For simplicity, the graphs provided in the data only show proficiency rates for the SBA’s reading exam before 2014 and the ELA assessments thereafter.

A Troubling Trend: The data clearly shows a troubling trend of declining student proficiency in both reading and math across the 4th and 8th grades. Regardless of economic disadvantage, student performance has been on the decline, with only a temporary peak observed in the 2017-2018 school year. In the 2021-2022 school year, only 14% of economically disadvantaged fourth graders were proficient in ELA, while only 37% of their not economically disadvantaged peers achieved proficiency.

Implications for Students and the State These findings have significant implications for both students and the state of Alaska as a whole. A decline in student proficiency can hinder their future opportunities and limit their ability to compete in the global economy. Moreover, a less educated workforce may impact the state’s economic growth and prosperity.

What Can We Do? Addressing this issue requires a multi-faceted approach involving educators, policymakers, and parents. Here are a few considerations for action:

  1. Increased Support for Early Literacy: Investing in early literacy programs can set a strong foundation for future academic success. By focusing on building strong reading skills at an early age, we can help students develop the necessary tools for success in later years.
  2. Targeted Intervention Programs: Identifying struggling students early on and providing them with targeted intervention can help close the proficiency gap. Implementing evidence-based intervention strategies can provide additional support to students who need it most.
  3. Curriculum Review and Alignment: Ensuring that curriculum standards align with rigorous assessments is crucial. Regularly reviewing and updating curriculum materials can help educators better prepare students for the demands of standardized assessments.
  4. Parental Involvement: Engaging parents in their child’s education is vital. Encouraging parental involvement through regular communication, workshops, and resources can create a supportive learning environment both at home and in the classroom.

In Conclusion Alaska’s declining student proficiency is a cause for concern. We must acknowledge the realities revealed by the data and take decisive action to reverse this trend. By investing in early literacy, providing targeted intervention, reviewing curriculum standards, and fostering parental involvement, we can equip our students with the skills they need to succeed.

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Luke 2:52

As this issue continues to unfold, we will keep you updated with the latest developments. Remember, education is the key to unlocking a brighter future for our children.

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