With over 10 years of experience as a substitute teacher, I understand the many challenges of being in the classroom and deeply respect those who choose education as a career. As a State, we need to ensure our teachers are given the necessary tools and support to educate our children and that resources reach the classroom and are not wasted in bureaucracy.
There is no question that quality education is the foundation of a great society. Education builds self esteem, explains the world around us, and enables citizens to become productive and responsible members of society. For America, for Alaska, and for our children we must strive to improve the quality of education for Alaskans.
We have many great teachers in the State of Alaska and numerous programs that have proven successful, including language immersion programs, engineering pilot programs, and the gifted programs, to name a few. Many of our schools, including some of the charter and ABC schools, have achieved good national test scores.
However, there is room for improvement. The graduation rate in the Anchorage School District, at around 70%, is unacceptable. At the Mayor's Education Summit, I was disappointed to learn that Alaska was tied for last place in the nation for 4th grade reading scores, according to NAEP (National Assessment for Education Progress). Unfortunately, Alaska's educational costs per student are among the highest in the nation. We need to keep our options open to potentially lower cost alternatives such as school choice, home schooling, private schools, and/or placing some non-college bound students on a vocational training path. All stakeholders need to be involved, and open to new strategies as we strive to improve our graduation rates while containing costs. Alaska is the land of opportunity and we have the ability to equip our youth with an education that prepares them for a brighter future.
In the process of analyzing our educational system we must recognize the value of our great teachers and principals, who are striving to educate our youth in a challenging environment. We need to highlight the success of our many superior teachers and have programs in place that reward excellence, hard work and positive outcomes. In addition, we need a system to identify areas for improvement and teachers who are not meeting expectations. Alaska needs to look to other states and countries where superior educational outcomes have been achieved, and strive to implement successful systems. Although we have many achievements to celebrate in the Anchorage School District, I hope you will join me in exploring and promoting solutions to reform our education system, and improve outcomes for our children throughout the State.
As your State House Representative, I will make education a priority. We should settle for nothing less than the best in education!