By AlaskaWatchman.com

Class discussion

The Anchorage School District’s mission – “Educating All Students for Success in Life” – has proven illusive. Annual math and reading scores continue to languish with nearly 57% of students performing below proficiency in English and 63% below proficiency in math.

To improve education, the school board’s communication committee put together a set of legislative priorities for board members to consider adopting.

The first set of goals focus on funding. This includes investing in benefits and sick leave for teachers, increasing the base student financial allotments from the state, and maintaining transportation funds.

The second set of priorities deal with student mental and behavioral health, trauma-informed practices, social emotional learning and so-called restorative justice.

Lastly, the board hopes to address the district’s failing academic record by taking the following actions:

— Continue prioritizing Pre-K, Reading, and Ready-to-Learn programs, including a focus on the “science of reading.”

— Add more days to the academic year.

— Lengthen the school day.

It’s unclear exactly how many of these goals will actually improve the education of Anchorage students. Alaska currently requires public schools to provide 180 days of schooling, with a minimum of four hours a day for grades 1-3 and five hours a day for grades 4-12. Those are fairly standard across the nation, and yet Alaska ranks 47th in terms of academic success nationally.

Extending overall hours in school is also controversial. While some studies suggest that extra instructional time can improve student achievement, the correlation is not one-to-one, and depends largely on other factors such as instructional quality. In fact, many other developed countries spend far fewer hours on classroom instruction and yet enjoy significantly higher academic success. Longer school days also mean more time away from home and family and less time for things like sports, youth groups, enriching extracurricular activities and other important aspects of life.

When it comes to education spending, Alaska is already near the very top of the list compared to other states. Alaska spends nearly $18,000 a year per student – the sixth highest in the nation.

The Alaska Policy Forum, a think tank that works on educational solutions, says schools should focus heavily on ensuring that third graders can read by the age of nine. It also recommends greater support for charter schools, and argues that state education funds should follow students instead of institutions. This would empower parents to seek educational options that best fit their child’s needs, whether that be public, private or homeschooling options.

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Will more funding and extended hours really improve Anchorage schools?

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.


17 Comments

  • DoneWithIt says:

    Money and time WILL NOT improve test scores.
    Content will.
    Stop the multi-cultural studies, CRT, anti-bullying / anti drug campaigns, the LGBQT sex ed, self esteem emphasis, safe places – STOP IT.
    #1 Raise the expectations of the students – if you don’t pass core curriculum requirements – you fail – and you will repeat the grade until you do.
    #2 Focus on hardcore basics – math, reading, english, civics, history, geography.
    #3 Make the students read books on all topics – these kids do not read ONE SINGLE book in these schools.
    #4 Make access to AP classes based on academic merit – not quotas.
    #5 Have classes for the slow learners or those who didn’t master the fundamentals – self esteem be damned – we do NO child a favor not mandating that they master functional literacy.
    #6 Toughen up the discipline – dress codes, etc.
    #7 Stop trying to put everyone on a path to college – that has failed – we need trades people of all stripes – they make good money and can support a family on that income – be paid while you train adn have a career for a lifetime.
    It’s not hard people – go back to the 1970’s – people were functionally literate when they graduated or the DID NOT graduate.

  • Ruth Ewig says:

    The truthful need in the public schools is for the teaching of traditional values to build character and the end goal being good honest citizens with integrity. There is a need to return Civics to the curriculum and use the basic subjects to structure students and to teach a strong work ethic. The Free Market principles need to be returned to the curriculum so students understand how to save and why. Real scientific inquiry with needs to be returned. Christianity needs to be put back in education through good curriculum such as is being used by homeschoolers. The “dumbing down” of the students has been going on since before the Reagan administration and the results being produced are what we are seeing. Donna Hearne, leader of the Constitutional Coalition was tasked by President Reagan to attend the governor’s meeting where Common Core curriculum was being planned for. She wrote a book about it and it was not good news. Samuel Blumenfeld who wrote Alpha Phonics warned that the children need to be removed from government schools because of what the trends were showing. Curriculum choices are key to the successes of the children. Answers in Genesis has an excellent curriculum, Hillsdale College has an excellent curriculum, and Abeka and Bob Jones curriculum is excellent. Our Providential History has been hidden for years. The courts have decided that Separation of Church and State exists and has existed which is a lie. Other justices have determined that the Constitution needs to be changed for the times so the other “living” Constitution not the Original one is being taught and used by lawyers and jusdges. Evolution is taught everywhere in public schools and it has been disproven over and over again but this is ignored. Three worldviews are in conflict: Biblical Worldview which is God created, Atheist worldview which is our evolution without God which was Darwin’s theory, and Pantheism which is “mother earth” again without God. The government schools are atheist and many Christians know it. It is harmful to our children and is the wrong foundation for education. All of these so-called atheist experts are trying to work within their atheistic system.
    Improving a many-headed dragon called Government schools has no pat solution other than returning to God which is the original reasons that the Pilgrims and Puritans and others wanted all children in the New World to read. This was so that they could read the Bible and understand the need for it. The important facts of our heritage have been erased. We know what needs to be done but will the teacher’s unions, or courts or other power structures in place acknowledge and genunely care about our children? Former President Trump gathered about him some good minds who wrote the 1776 Commission Report and curriculum. Governor Noem of South Dakota adopted it. That is the solution that the leftists immediately eliminated after Trump’s term. The report is there and we do not need to try and reinvent the wheel through more days and hours at school or whatever other leftist ideas are out there.

    • Sharon Alice Turner says:

      As a HS Grad of De Anza High, El Sobrante California , Contra Costa county.. 1964 data actual data compared us to 40 + years later (*mid 2004) that our average grad had at least level of education equal to 2 years to 4 full years of full time college in 2004/05. We were very ethnically divers.. learned from each others heritage*. Not violence tolerate, simple basic dress codes, and Common sense. Most of the 435 grads in my class did well.

  • Neil+A+DeWitt says:

    We’ve been throwing money at schools forever and nothing changes. I think we should start cutting their budget. As for extending the hours, when I was a kid we went from 0745-3:45. Yes 8 hrs. That way parents can work a job and do their own babysitting. We also all rode the same bus. Yes every grade from first to twelve. Only special bus was for preschool. The older kids took care of the little ones. We had respect for each other back then! Maybe Alaska should look at this too!

  • Mongo Likes Candy says:

    It’s expensive teaching CRT and getting those racists kids to understand their white privileges! So only the white kids should be made to stay longer and engage in anti-racist re-education exercises.

  • Marie says:

    I have homeschooled from Kindergarten. It takes 2-3 hours tops to get through every subject, even in middle school, and I spend less than $500 a year on curriculum (we will not take the allotment–that’s still public school). If they need to lengthen their already long school day, there has to be a LOT of time mismanagement going on.

    • Jen says:

      I am feeling the same way Marie about the allotment. I just allowed myself to cancel myself out of one State-run controlled Homeschool program because of my Feeling I had too much Government prying into life even through its Homeschool program. Now! I am totally feeling like I am winging it solo. Sometimes I am unsure what I am doing, some days are a struggle doing it alone, and some days are successful and we both feel accomplished.

  • Dave Donley says:

    Joel – You and your team do a great job but my research indicates that Alaska has a combination of the shortest school year and a short school day that over a K-12 education provides our students over a year less instructional time than some other states. I agree that public schools should be doing much better for the funding they receive but instructional time is a real factor. Thank you for your support of charter and alternative schools and school choice. Dumping the failing Common Core agenda to return to proven traditional math and reading curriculum like Saxon Math and Spaulding Reading can have our students reading by third grade and doing much better in math. Thank you again for all you do for conservative causes. Speaking for myself only and not the ASD or Anchorage School Board – Dave Donley

  • Coach says:

    With 57% of students performing below proficiency in English and 63% below proficiency in math wouldn’t it be time to consider other options rather than additional funding? Alaska could spend every single penny of the budget on public schools and it would not change these outcomes. Why do we even believe that government is capable of providing excellence in education? Alaska should be bold and end the public grip on education. Let the private market drive education. Do we really think it would be possible to achieve worse outcomes?
    These comments are from someone with 25 years of experience in public education.

  • Dee Cee says:

    I’ve been educated in private, homeschool, and public environments. My parents were advocates for my education, and they took charge. There are pros and cons to everything… no matter which style of education you choose for your kid. The important thing is to take charge of it. I enrolled my son into Denali Montessori. It was mostly good. There were down sides. But when the pandemic hit, we said, “no way, jose!” to online education. I put my kid into a Montessori school FOR A REASON… and it wasn’t so he could sit in front of a screen all day. Now they are at Holy Rosary. Paying out of pocket for a private education in the best school in Alaska was the best decision my family could have possibly made! I am NOT cut out to be my kids’ sole, primary educator. But when I read the contract, and the first line in it was (paraphrase), “Parents are the primary educators. This school is here to support you in educating your child” I knew we had the right order of succession. I appreciate my kids’ teachers. But we understand each other and agree that I am the parent, I am in charge. They are subordinate to me in the care and education of my kids. With that concept written into the contract, I can rest assured that I’ll be able to exercise the care and address the educational needs of my kids without interference. That is not something public schools are willing to accept. They place themselves in a superior position to the parent, and therefore fundamentally violate your rights as a parent, on an organizational level. At Denali Montessori, I had one thing that most people don’t have: a Principal who agreed with me that I am the parent, I am in charge. So therefore, I had no reason to worry that things would go too far out of whack. If we have more of THAT in public schools, they will improve over night.

  • Michael says:

    I agree with Coach, I have talked to several frustrated teachers that spend much of their time on mandated programs rather than the subjects that are essential to success. Furthermore, many students are not taught the relationship of what they are supposed to be learning to how it applies to or may affect their future. They need to bring back trade and technology classes, as not every student is interested in pursuing continuing academic endeavors. I, being a product of the public education system, quit any significant learning in the 5th grade. From then on it was rehashing the same old things and a total waste of my time. The establishment wanted to prepare me for college and I wasn’t interested. After high school, I joined the Navy and went to their training programs, I then went to college after my release from active duty (taking general studies classes and classes that would advance my career).

  • Jen says:

    Well! Does giving a new toy and piece of Chocolate to a tantrum throwing child resolve their anger and tears?
    You better not run out of money so there is always a new toy available to give during the next tantrum.

  • S says:

    Funding for K-12 education in Alaska totals $2.53 billion or $19,315 per pupil. I repeat $19,315 per student. My homeschooled kids test high above state and National proficiency marks (usually 2-3 grades higher on average) and our allotment has us spending less than $2200 per student per school year. As a previous educator within the Anchorage School District, I can whole heartedly say: there is absolutely no way each student requires that much funding. Take a look at spending/costs in local area private schools. Even schools with a higher tuition base are not spending that amount per student.
    Sounds to me like homeschool families either deserve a tax break or a higher allotment after reviewing all of the published budgetary data.

  • Coach says:

    This conversation can go down so many rabbit holes. It has become increasingly clear that the Marxists have successfully seized the public schools (Stalin and Hitler did the same). There is more than ample historical evidence to indicate that governments should not have control over education. In addition to this we are talking about an institutional model that was developed for the industrial revolution. Hello, it is 2021! It is like someone trying to stream Netflix on their flip phone and then complaining that it is not working…

  • jh says:

    Teacher’s colleges have been doing a poor job at preparing educators to take charge of the classroom for years. Teacher’s colleges have been “dumbing down” producing stupid/dumb teachers. The teachers union are more interested in quantity rather than QUALITY.
    To improve our schools, we need to make it harder to become a teacher. America needs highly educated teachers to produce highly educated students.

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