Getting less with more

If you have wondered whether Alaska’s education establishment is doing its job, you might want to read an article in the Alaska Journal of Commerce headlined, “Education officials grapple with ill-prepared UA students.”

The piece, by Tim Bradner, details a report on the poor preparation in Alaska’s high schools for college-bound students. It rocked the state’s embarrassed education establishment.

The study, by University of Alaska Anchorage professor Herb Schroeder, concluded “that up to 74 percent of graduates from five Alaska high schools, including one in Anchorage, have had to take remedial classes at the university, mainly in math and English, even though their high school grades showed them passing courses with flying colors,” Bradner reported.

The ruckus, he said, is causing UA and the state state Department of Education to rethink how things are being done.

All of this should come as no surprise. Alaska pays far more to educate its children than most other states, largely because of the added expense of providing rural education.

In Alaska, about $3.4 billion is spent on education at the state and local level. The state boasts the nation’s highest median expenditures – $18,416 per student, trailing only New York and the District of Columbia. “Governing” magazine, using census figures, says the national education spending average, based on 2014 figures, is $11,009 per student.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” ranks Alaska 37th in math and reading assessments for grades four and eight. Our fourth-graders averaged 35 percent math proficiency and 30 percent ; eighth-graders, 32 percent math proficiency and 31 percent reading proficiency.

Using information from the Council for Community and Economic Research, the Alaska Policy Forum has published a graph showing the relationship between spending and results.

It found: “More spending on K12 does not necessarily produce better student achievement.  Matter of fact, more funding  may lead to wasteful spending on programs that do not help students achieve.”

Perhaps it is time for the governor to empanel a commission of educators and ordinary Alaskans to explore ways for the state of Alaska to get its money’s worth from its every-growing education industry.

What we have now does not appear to be working as well as it should.


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