Alaska Policy Forum (APF), a nonprofit think tank in Anchorage, published a new interactive map showing that Alaska’s public schools are failing to teach basic reading, writing and math skills.

The new report reveals that a full two-thirds of public school students are not proficient in math, and 40% are not proficient in English. Based on the latest Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools (PEAKS), the report and covers the 2021 school year for grades 3-9. There was no report in 2020 due to COVID.

An analysis of the data by Alaska Policy Forum includes a map showing how individual schools performed academically.

“Our schools should work to help every child be proficient in reading and math,” said Alaska Policy Forum researcher Sarah Montalbano. “These maps demonstrate that most of Alaska’s schools are failing to ensure proficiency in basic skills. Our state needs to ensure this never happens to another generation of young Alaskans.”

The APF found that third graders are the least proficient in English among all groups, and that public charter schools outperformed traditional brick-and-mortar public schools.

Statewide, 60.5% of students were “below or far below proficient” in English, the APF analysis found, and nearly 68% of students were below or far below proficient in math. When compared to performances in 2019, students are only 0.3% more proficient in English and 3.34% less proficient in math.

Sixth graders seem to be doing best when it comes to English, but even among this group, less than half (only 47%) were proficient. For third graders, just 36% were proficient.

“This is particularly relevant because children who fail to learn to read by age nine continue to struggle with reading, understand less class material at higher grade levels, and are more likely to drop out of high school,” APF’s analysis warns.

In math, the most proficient group was third graders at 38% proficient. The lowest performing group was sixth grade with just 26% proficient.

To best address the dismal academic record in Alaska’s public schools, the Alaska Policy Forum recommends a process that allows parents to use educational funding to send children to the schools they believe will best suit their needs. Whether that be traditional public schools, charter schools or private education, APF believes funding should follow individual students, not institutions.


  • Anchorage School District: 43% proficient in English and nearly 37% proficient in math for all grades.
  • Fairbanks School District: 45% proficient in English and nearly 33% proficient in math for all grades.
  • Mat-Su School District was nearly 50% proficient in English and 42% proficient in math for all grades.


  • Click here to compare schools, districts and grade level performance.
  • Click here to read the full analysis by Alaska Policy Forum.

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2021 report: Alaska schools fail to teach basic reading, writing and math

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 20 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.