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.

Click here to support Alaska Watchman reporting.

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 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.


  • Timothy+Colbath says:

    If you have children – get them out of public schools immediately. Apparently Fairbanks is going to teach sex to 12 yr olds but they still won’t be able to read or do simple math.

  • Scott says:

    Well, at least the kids are being indoctrinated so they don’t have to actually think….

  • NAV says:

    Alaskans have been lied to about the school district budgets and the salaries and benefits for years, ASD has the largest budget in the system with millions in their coffers and waste the greatest amount of tax payers money in the state. And the sad fact is that this didn’t just happen its been that way for over a decade.

  • Ralph says:

    I learned so much more in home school. I was challenged to take my education into my own hands.. if I didn’t try I failed. There was no sugar coating or lowering of grades…
    One size fits all public schooling is a disservice to our children and does not equip them to be ambitious, go getting citizens.

  • Chad says:

    The Anchorage school District needs to be broken up into 4 small different school districts. It’s too big and it’s failing our community. My family and I moved to the of state Alaska in 1991 because of the education system was more advanced then compared to Wyoming School system at the time with teaching children with disabilities. During the 90s and early 2000s Alaska was in the top 10 for education it has drastically retarded sense my graduation in 2003.

  • Casey petrin says:

    They fall behind because they actually care about the children and are not interested in making national numbers.
    Alaska has the best school systems compared to other states. I use to think differently. Recently moved out of state and compared to Alaska… We have no personal education.

    My son is not even learning because he’s so stressed out.

    We even considered moving back to Alaska because the school system is so much better.

    • Steve+Peterson says:

      The stats don’t lie. Just because you compare the Anchorage schools to lower 48 schools does not make the Alaska schools proficient. They may be better than schools in the L48 but that ain’t saying much.

  • MBoll says:

    As a family member of literally generations of teachers in Alaska and around the country. It is our belief that most school districts upper esstioalon aka administrators and the NEA are as corrupt as our Federal government, if not more. Just like anyone else there is good and bad, but this is who we trust with our children and grandchildren.


  • jh says:

    A person, who is committed to a false and dangerous idea that hurts them and hurts other people, very often has people in their lives who enable them by going along with the false belief that becomes the person’s reality.
    Gov. DeSantis: “Some of these kids, unfortunately, get degrees in things like Zombie Studies that don’t exactly lead to a lot.”

  • Kelly says:

    May I please point out that the ASD is one of the most diverse school districts in the nation with an enormous number of languages spoken. We have elementary, middle, and high schools that show up in the top 5 of the most diverse in the nation (one high school has been number one for a while). There is a reason there such a high number of students who are not proficient in English- a large percentage of them are learning it for the first time… check the stats when you get a chance…

  • Michael Totten says:

    I blame the parents who continue to send their kids to these communist sex camps

  • Drover says:

    If we’re comparing standardized educational assesibility with PEAKS. Districts must draft up a different format. This is a common core curriculum based assessment. The timing for assessment, districts denial of teachers contracts & funding issues is impeccable. I wonder what the comparison would be if different assessments were used compared to PEAKS findings. I wonder what the ratio for opting out of PEAKS testing/assessment compared to other assessment would be. This seems a possible ploy to obtain more funding for different assessments. Just throwing that thought out there.