On January 15 at Turnagain Elementary, the Governor of Alaska, the Alaska Commissioner for Education, and State Senator Begich announced in a press conference new education legislation to address the 3rd grade literacy crisis facing our state. As the Governor said:
“We have a moral imperative to ensure that our young people can read at a skill level—at a level—that is going to help them advance through school, but also advance through life, give them hope, give them opportunities, and set them on a course for a productive, happy life.”
According to the announcement, the legislation would re-focus and re-prioritize resources given to schools to concentrate on early reading interventions, in order to ensure that Alaska’s students can read proficiently by the end of third grade. This re-prioritization would include creating unique interventions to address the needs of struggling students. Additionally, Senator Begich said, “the Administration is willing to commit resources above what we call the base-level allocation to help those low-performing schools actually bring their kids to a place where they can read at grade level and achieve.” However, the Governor stated, “If it was just as easy as more money, and that was it, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Alaska schools across the state have struggled to equip students with the necessary reading skills to continue their education, as demonstrated by widespread failing scores on the Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools (PEAKS). As the map below illustrates, schools across the state are struggling to achieve 50 percent on-grade-level proficiency. To view an interactive map of PEAKS scores, click here.
Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is critical for all students because when they start fourth grade, they must use their reading skills to learn other subjects, such as history and science.
Senator Begich finished by saying, “We’re going to be introducing these pieces of legislation on the first day of the session, and we’ll continue to bring them and make them available to folks as soon as we get the final language done.” While the announcement was full of hope and promise, without finalized language, it was lacking the fundamental details needed to shed light on whether this legislation will be effective.
View the announcement video here. Photo of the Governor and Senator taken as screenshot from the video.