November 30, 2015
Serving Midtown, Spenard, and UMed
716 W. 4th Ave Suite 411.
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Governor Bill Walker
Lt. Governor Byron Mallot
An Education on Education
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The Association of Alaska School Boards held its 62nd annual conference in early November. The keynote speaker, Montana’s State Superintendent of Schools, described the innovative approaches Montana is using to improve education for all students, including the large Native population.
Some initiatives she highlighted include:
These initiatives provided plenty of food for thought for school board members, administrators and educators from across Alaska.
Additionally, in mid-November I was among nine legislators at the Alaska PTA conference. The central focus was to not balance the state budget on the backs of our children. And I agree. This is going to be an extremely difficult year to even maintain services, let alone expand opportunities for quality public education statewide.
Is fair the same as equal?
Education Week Research Center ranked states on ability to provide resources equally to their schools. Alaska was the only state that was found to give more resources to our rural and more impoverished areas. This is because those areas need more resources to provide adequate education to students. The image below highlights this point. As parents, we understand that equity in meeting the needs of our children can be seen as giving exactly the same resources to each child, or as striving to meet the needs of each child while understanding that one child might require more resources than another. As a state, our goal is to ensure that every student has the opportunity to succeed.
To further explore this point, my office has explored the relationship between reading proficiency and poverty levels across Alaska. The chart below gives an idea of how our school districts compare to each other, and which ones are lagging behind. It is not a surprise that more impoverished areas struggle while wealthy areas tend to experience better school performance. Interestingly, we looked into the outliers – high preforming/low income districts and discovered that each one was an anomaly – a district with only one school, for example.
To sum up, our students need the following basic things to succeed in their schooling:
When we cannot give schools all the resources we’d like to, we can strive to communicate that each student and each school is important and matters to this state.
I’m Berta and I’m still listening,
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office.