Should Alaska lower the threshold for students to achieve “proficiency” status in basic reading and math? A new proposal to do just that is now up for public comment.

In order to show whether students are actually learning, Alaska conducts a statewide assessment each year to measure how those in grades three through nine perform in reading and math. An annual report called AK STARS is then published to provide accountability to the public, and to help guide policy decisions, curriculum development, teacher training and more.

Historically, the vast majority of Alaska students have failed to show basic proficiency in reading or math. In 2022, 71% of students were below proficient overall. With lowered expectations, however, the new proposal could serve to classify more students as academically “proficient” without actually raising their objective scores.

One example of the changes can be seen in the fourth-grade assessments. Under the current system, students would need to achieve a score of at least 1572 to be deemed “proficient” in reading. The new proposal would lower that to 1568. Similar changes are proposed across most other grade levels. To read the official notice of all proposed changes, click here.

Before making any changes, the state will open the proposals up for public comment. After the public comment period ends, the Department of Education will either adopt its proposal, without further notice, or decide to take no action.

Those who wish to weigh in have until Jan. 8 at 4:30 p.m. to submit written comments. Oral comments will take place during a Jan. 17 public hearing.


— Written comments can be sent to: Commissioner’s Office, Department of Education and Early Development, Attn: Regulations Review, 333 Willoughby Ave, 9th Floor, State Office Building, P.O. Box 110500, Juneau, Alaska 99811-0500. Email comments can be sent to

— Oral comments can be provided via telephone during a Zoom hearing on Jan. 17, starting at 12:05 p.m. To access the Zoom meeting, click here or call (253) 215-8782 and selecting *9 on the phone’s keypad (Meeting ID 861 8251 2348).

— Questions about the proposed changes can be emailed to Kathijo Jolin at or to the Department of Education and Early Development, Attn: Regulations Review, 333 Willoughby Ave. 9th Floor, State Office Building, P.O. Box 110500, Juneau, Alaska 99811-0500. The questions must be received at least 10 days before the end of the public comment period. The Department of Education and Early Development will aggregate its response to substantially similar questions and make the questions and responses available here.

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Alaska seeks to lower standards for students to be deemed ‘proficient’ in math & reading

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.


  • DaveMaxwell says:

    This is consistent with our ass of a governor who lowered the standards to become a state employee! Dunceleavys name is all over this!

  • Coliseum in the Snow says:

    Wow. This is shameful. Thanks for letting us know. I’ll definitely send in a written comment.

  • Mary says:

    Lower the standards? Oh yes, lower the standards so students look proficient. Alaska already lowered the educational standards years ago and look where it got us. Looks are often deceiving.

    Alaska has a bloated, too heavy administration. save a lot of money and get rid of the Superintendents numerous secretaries and other support staff. Cut out the “Easy A” course work (under water basket weaving classes) and get back to basics.

    • DaveMaxwell says:

      While we’re at it Mary we need to eliminate the Lt governor position! Our elections are fraudulent! What the hell does Dalhstrom do to stay busy? But wipe for dunleavy!

  • DaveMaxwell says:

    I’m totally in agreement with lowering the standards in one condition. Lower the wage paid to all who are associated with this stupid idea! The governor included! He’s not to be left out of the application of this principle! We the people are now being called upon to step up and do what is needed to take back our country!

  • T says:

    with the amount of money spent on “education” in this state …
    I would hope for Better than “academically proficient”.

  • DaveMaxwell says:

    Very proficient in toxic sexology, not so much in math!

  • Mike Main says:

    As a public school teacher in the MATSU, I find it disheartening that “lowering the standards” is even considered a way to improve student performance. How? Through more “lets feel good about our meager efforts” pop psychology? How about we teach students to be resilient problem solvers, applying their reading, writing and mathematic skills, with appropriate rigor with some useful struggle thrown in. Parents need to get involved! Go to the school board meetings, visit your students schools, meet their teachers and visit their classrooms. Know what your students are being taught. Everyone is “busy,” but a lack of involvement–for the last several decades–by those who should care the most, finds us where we are today.

  • Mary Rapp says:

    I began teaching in the early 70’s. Teachers were given written goals and objectices for the grade they were to teach that year, and we were expected to have our class ready to pass the national tests in the spring. We were considered the educators back then. After all, we went to four or more years of schooling to learn how to be teachers. Right? We, the educators, decided on which reading, math, science and etc…. program we wanted to use for our class. Sometimes I would pick from three different companies depending on my class’s needs. Books were made available for all levels in each school’s huge book room. I noticed things begin going wrong when the idea of introducing new teaching stratagies and/or new curriculum programs became a popular novelty for educating our kids. In fact, the books from the teacher book rooms were all given away, or thrown away so now all we had were new programs and newer books. After all, we could afford it since the taxpayers said yes to all the bond propositions. Wow! It sounded good at the beginning, but it didn’t work good. For example, one September when this novel teaching idea/ approach began, we were introduced to not one, but three, new programs which we were told to look over, learn, and have prepared for use the first day of school. We were told we might have these programs explained later. In the meantime, all we could do was stumble along trying to teach a new programs that may or may not work, but that the school board and administration thought was great. Things have only got worse, and all that the old, expecienced, teachers look forward too is retirement from a broken system. Presently public education has gotten to the low point where the teachers are now given one curriculum manual they must follow faithfully. Creativity in teaching is gone. Alaska’s national test scores have been at the very bottom for quite a few years, so we can all agree that the present teaching approach is certainly not working. Despite this sad situation, our education budget is the third highest of the nation, and most of that money goes to administration salaries who’s employee count just keeps growing even while the number of students and teachers goes down. This needs to be reversed. We really do need to go back to letting teachers be teachers and hike their pay to entice the best of the best for our kids. Parents and all us tax paying Alaskans must begin making demands of better education results for our money. Until this happens, we’ll continue with the broken system that is cheating our children out of their education plus cheating all us Alaskans out of our hard earned money.

  • Mary says:

    This is crazy. Stop teaching kids garbage and get back to the basics. Teachers should he more than capable of teaching their students at a higher standard or they shouldn’t be teachers at all. There is never a good reason to lower standards of teaching. To even entertain that option tells me we gave a major problem in Alaska’s public schools!

  • Bess says:

    Is it possible kids are just simply less intelligent these days? Take away the cell phones, video games and sexual indoctrination in the schools and just see their IQs go up!

  • AK Fish says:

    Until you clean house at the Anchorage School Board and Anchorage School District top administrators, you will continue to get unsatisfactory results for Anchorage students. Insert your local name in place for Anchorage. Interesting factiod: “schools spending less than $10,000 per student not only consistently performed near or above the statewide proficiency average of 36%, but were also almost entirely correspondence schools or charter schools. Many of the top-performing schools are charter schools as well. These innovative models have demonstrated the ability to do more with limited resources.” AK Policy Forum.

  • Penny Johnson says:

    Lowering the standard measurement for proficiency gives the administration and teachers a pass on THEIR proficiency. once uncorked, this bottle cannot be resealed. Stop with the equity and reduced expectations for students, teachers and administrators.

  • Jen says:

    This is only to avoid the inevitable longer to not allowing a State take-over the failing public schools when 91% aren’t proficient in one school.