By Sarah MontalbanoAlaska Policy Forum

Alaska has administered statewide summative assessments to students for decades, which helps the state track student proficiency in reading and math over time. Alaska Policy Forum has obtained Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) data via a public records request, which lists statewide the percent of students proficient on all summative assessments administered between 2009 and 2021.

Student proficiency rates are presented in two broad categories reported by DEED: economically disadvantaged students and not economically disadvantaged students. DEED determines economic disadvantage similarly to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which uses eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches as a proxy for income level.

Regardless of economic disadvantage, student proficiency in both subjects and both grades have been in decline, with a temporary peak in 2017-2018.

Alaska has changed its standardized assessments several times during the time frame examined here. During the five years between the 2009-2010 school year and the 2013-2014 school year, the paper-based Standards Based Assessment (SBA) was administered to students grades 3-10 with exams in reading, writing, and math. In the 2014-2015 school year, Alaska adopted the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP), which was a computerized assessment and combined reading and writing into an English Language Arts (ELA) assessment. The AMP was canceled in the 2015-2016 school year due to “repeated technical disruptions” that rendered the test invalid. The AMP was replaced by the Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools (PEAKS) in the 2016-2017 school year. The PEAKS was canceled in the 2019-2020 school year due to the Covid-19 pandemic’s abrupt closure of schools in the spring of 2020. Finally, the Alaska System of Academic Readiness (AK STAR) was implemented in the 2021-2022 school year.

There are two critical considerations when viewing Alaska’s state summative assessment data over time. The switch from the SBA to the AMP was motivated by the fact that the SBA’s standards were more permissive than the rest of the U.S. The massive drops in proficiency across all subjects and grades between the 2013-2014 SBA and the 2014-2015 AMP were not due to Alaska’s students suddenly becoming unable to meet grade-level expectations. Rather, Alaska’s students were not doing well throughout the entire period examined here; the switch to a more rigorous test through the AMP simply revealed that unfortunate fact.

Notably, the SBA also separated its paper-based reading and writing tests, while the computerized tests for the AMP, PEAKS, and AK STAR combined reading and writing skills into a single ELA assessment. For simplicity, the graphs show proficiency rates only for the SBA’s reading exam between 2009 and 2013 and the ELA assessments thereafter.

The following graphs show the percentage of students proficient statewide in reading and mathematics in the 4th and 8th grades. Regardless of economic disadvantage, student proficiency in both subjects and both grades have been in decline, with a temporary peak in 2017-2018. Only 14% of economically disadvantaged fourth graders were proficient in ELA in the 2021-2022 school year and only 37% of not economically disadvantaged fourth graders were proficient.

Data shows Alaska students’ performance in steady decline since 2009

Sarah Montalbano
Sarah Montalbano is the Policy Manager for Alaska Policy Forum. where she writes about education, healthcare, state fiscal issues, and more. She is a visiting fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum and also the Northwest Regional Leader and writer with Young Voices. She graduated from Montana State University with a B.S. in computer science with minors in economics and data science. She was a 2022 Robert L. Bartley Fellow in editorial features at The Wall Street Journal. Her work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, and The American Spectator.


  • Neil DeWitt says:

    Here’s my take on this; when I was a kid everyone (1-12th grade) road the same bus and school was from 0745 to 3:45 daily. The farm kids did chores(milk cows, feed live stock, etc…) then did home work and got to bed by NLT 10 pm. No questions asked.
    In Alaska you brought all this common core crap, woke crap, and LGBTQ+ crap into our schools and the kids going to them are forced fed crap that DONT DO ANYTHING FOR LIFE but make them totally confused. They turn into street thugs, gangs, and theives. The crap keeps getting shoved down their throats and the test scores keep going down. Look at when the crap started and when the scores dropped. It’s not rocket science even with as little training kids get now day you should be able to figure this one out.
    So what’s the answer? I guess keep shoveling crap down the kids throats. NOT! It’s obvious in well over ten years what your doing isn’t working. How about going back to the old ways so kids can grow up in a safe environment and learn something they need in life like Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. I say let give it 10 years and see where those scores go. I’ll bet they go up. What can it hurt? We’re at the bottom of the barrel now.

  • Richard Morgan says:

    Oddly enough those stats exactly match the decrease in education funding since 2013.

    • Coliseum in the Snow says:

      Ha! AK shells out nearly 20k per student every year! How much money does it require to teach children their reading, writing, and arithmetic? Spend less money on diversity, equity, and pornography -not to mention all the money spent on food that gets wasted- and teach our teachers how to educate instead of propagandandize and our test scores just must jump up a notch.

  • John J Otness says:

    Ya like you no give us a raise your kids a hostage and we wont teach,,,,, oh ok..blackmail..

  • Friend of Humanity says:

    I believe the decrease follows exactly Obama’s terms in office and the take-down programs he has put in place.

  • Jen says:

    So what is the Alaska Policy doing about it? Its members have more access to other leaders than the public. What are these article contributions intent? To rile up and enrage the public. Because that’s all it’ll do. The public don’t have the phone numbers and direct access contact to the very Alaskan community leaders as the leaders over at Alaska policy. So quit crying and complaining.

  • DaveMaxwell says:

    The kids are more proficient at sexual perversion!

  • Jim says:

    Compare all of this to what was the trend for salaries and trend for benefits paid to Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau public school teachers.
    Do it year by year.

  • Douglas says:

    Par for the course across the country. When you change curriculum emphasis away from learning basics such as science, math, language proficiency, arts, and music…and concentrate on indoctrination into controversial social ideologies clinically proven to be harmful…well the results are clearly going to be a decline; Thus we set our children up for personal failure to thrive in a society that predominantly opposes the very ideology they were indoctrinated into throughout K-12. It is not rocket science.

    • Lucinda says:

      Douglas. Have you ever discussed your concerns with an actual teacher? Seems like you are parroting broad conservative beliefs that very likely don’t apply everywhere.

      • Douglas says:

        I was a teacher, have many friends from many states who are or were teachers (of diverse ethnicity, geography, and political leanings), and my mother was a teacher…you can take your foot out of your mouth now. Yet, most of your posts are similarly ridiculous as this one, so you must enjoy your foot in your mouth regularly.

  • Bob Logan says:

    Our school funding did not change for over a decade. It was zero right up until our 13 year old started college. He’s starting his third semester at UAF in January. Homeschooled. His 12 year old brother is just as far ahead, but in the trades. Put your effort directly into your own children if you have them.