• Alignment of Alaska’s Educational Programs from Pre-School through Graduate Study: A First Look

      McDiarmid, G. Williamson; Hill, Alexandra (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2010-01)
      Too many Alaska students leave formal education unprepared for their next steps in life. Too many drop out of high school; too few high-school graduates go on to post-secondary education; and too few of those who do enroll in post-secondary education graduate in a timely manner. Employers report that a substantial number of young people who enter the work world directly after graduating from high school (or after dropping out) lack the reading, writing, and math skills necessary for many of today’s jobs, even at entry level. Ideally, the various components of the education system would be structured so that as children or young people complete each step, they would be adequately prepared for the next. In practice, this is often not the case. Students arrive at kindergarten and again at college, vocational training, or work unprepared for the challenges they face and without the skills their teachers, professors, or employers expect. Alaska is not alone in these problems, and many states are focusing on alignment as a possible response. Policymakers and others are studying how students progress through the entire education system—from pre-school through college, graduate study, or career training. As defined above, alignment would coordinate the work of institutions providing different levels of education. Educators in K-12 and early childhood programs would agree on what children should know and be able to do when entering kindergarten (or first grade)—and on how those skills and abilities would be taught and assessed. Likewise, employers, institutions of higher education, and K-12 schools would work together to reach similar agreements on what young people need to know to enter the workforce or college. Alignment efforts bring together policymakers and practitioners from all levels of education to identify what needs to be done to achieve this coordination and to oversee the work. The first section of this report looks at alignment of early childhood programs and K-12 education. Why is it important to begin alignment at the level of early childhood education? Research has demonstrated the strong effect of quality early childhood education on later educational outcomes. Among the best-known research is the High/Scope Perry Preschool study, which followed 120 children from the time they attended that preschool in the 1960s, at ages 3 or 4, until they were age 40.1 Schweinhart, et al. (1993) looked at program participants through age 27 and estimated that the program had produced savings to taxpayers of over $7 for each dollar spent. Program participants were less likely to need special education services throughout their school careers, less likely to commit crimes, and less likely to receive welfare—and they alsoearned more and paid higher taxes than non-participants. Other studies have found that children who participate in quality early childhood education programs are less likely to be retained in grade, placed in special education, or drop out of high school (Schweinhart 1994). In Alaska, public early childhood education is limited to federally mandated special education and federally funded (with state supplemental funding) Head Start programs. These programs together enroll about 16% of 3-year-olds and 22% of 4-year-olds in the state. Many more students in urban areas are enrolled in some form of private pre-school. Head start programs exist in more than 75 Alaska communities and are run by 16 different grantees, which have varying degrees of coordination with their local K-12 districts and with each other. The second focus of this report is readiness of Alaska high-school graduates for post-secondary education or work. Alaska’s colleges and universities find that many of their entering students— even those with good grades in high school—aren’t ready for college-level work. Again, national research affirms that Alaska’s problems are not unique. Callan, Finney, Kirst, Usdan, and Venezia (2006) report “The more difficult challenge for students is becoming prepared academically for college coursework. Once students enter college, about half of them learn that they are not prepared for college-level courses. Forty percent of students at four-year institutions and 63 percent at two-year colleges take remedial education. Additionally, high-school students face an incredibly complex system of placement tests and college admissions requirements.” A national survey of 431 employers about workforce readiness found that “When asked to assess new workforce entrants, employers report that many of the new entrants lack skills essential to job success… Over 40 percent (42.4 percent) of employer respondents rate new entrants with a high school diploma as ‘deficient’ in their overall preparation for the entry-level jobs they typically fill. Almost the same percentage (45.6 percent) rate the overall preparation of high school graduate entrants as ‘adequate,’ but almost no one (less than ½ of 1 percent—0.2 percent) rates their overall preparation as ‘excellent.’ ” 2 Anecdotal information from Alaska employers indicates that many young people entering the workforce in Alaska aren’t prepared for work, either. This report brings together available data on the scope of these problems in Alaska and discusses what other states have tried and what we can tell so far about what has worked. We identify areas that need more research and where there may not even be data to conduct research. Finally, we suggest steps the state can undertake now, while conducting research, to fill in the gaps.
    • Connecting a Disjointed System: A First Look at Aligning Education in Alaska

      McDiarmid, G. Williamson; Hill, Alexandra (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2008-11)
      We’ve heard it before, but it’s still true: too many Alaska students don’t have the skills they need to move on to the next stage of education or to get good jobs. Too many drop out of high school, and too few of those who graduate go on to college or other post-secondary education—and among those who do go on to post-secondary education, many don’t graduate within four or even six years. Employers report that young people entering the work world directly after they graduate from high school (or right after they drop out) don’t have the reading, writing, and math skills necessary for many of today’s jobs, even entry-level ones. Alaska is not alone in these problems, but the high-school dropout rate is higher than the U.S. average and fewer graduates go to college. A third of Alaska’s high-school students don’t even graduate, and only about a third graduate and start college right away (Figure 1).
    • Interim Evaluation: PRAXIS Preparation and Professional Development Institute

      Jester, Timothy; McDiarmid, G. Williamson (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska., 2000)
      The primary goal of the PRAXIS Preparation and Professional Development Institute is to help Alaska Natives pass the PRAXIS exams required for teacher certification in the state. The goal of this evaluation is to provide information to the project staff on how well the Institute is achieving the goals for which it was designed. This report was prepared for the Cook Inlet Tribal Council and the Together Reaching Educational Excellence (TREE) Program.
    • Program Evaluation: [Rose] Urban Rural Youth Program

      McDiarmid, G. Williamson; Frazier, Rosyland (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska., 2002)
      This report evaluates how well the Alaska Humanties Forum Urban/Rural Youth Program - intended to build understanding and a statewide sense of community - achieved its aims in the first year of operation. The main body of this report provides information in both table and narrative form. Most of the qualitative information consists of verbatim quotes from students and parents. An executive summary is also available.
    • Program Evaluation: Rose Urban Rural Exchange 2003

      McDiarmid, G. Williamson; Frazier, Rosyland (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska., 2003)
      " The Rose Urban Rural Exchange is made possible by a partnership between the Alaska Humanities Forum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center. It's intended to build understanding and a state- wide sense of community by bringing urban students to rural Alaska, and rural students to urban Alaska, to learn about each other's cultures. It will continue through 2004. As in the first year. Urban students traveled from Anchorage to 11 villages in southwest and central Alaska. About 20 urban and 20 rural students participated in the second year of the program-twice Alaska-Shungnak, Kiana, Old Harbor, Ruby, King Cove, Alakunuk, Nanwalek, Kaltag, Pilot Station, Quinhagak, and Scammon Bay (see map). Rural students from these same villages traveled to Anchorage. In most cases, parents of students who traveled from Anchorage hosted the visiting rural students, and vice-versa. Parents also typically attended orientation sessions."
    • Program Evaluation: Rose Urban Rural Sister School 2003

      Frazier, Rosyland; McDiarmid, G. Williamson (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska., 2003)
      The Sister School Exchange, along with the Student Exchange and Teacher Training programs, make up the Rose Urban Rural Program. The Rose Urban Rural Program is made possible by the Alaska Humanities Forum and with funding from the U.S. Department of Education. It is intended to build understanding and a statewide sense of community by bringing urban students and teachers to rural Alaska, and rural students and teachers to urban Alaska, to learn about each other's cultures. The Sister School Exchange provides urban and rural students with an opportunity to visit each other's classrooms and communities and form a foundation for sustainable relationships. Sponsoring teachers use a curriculum, developed by the program, intended to help students understand their host community's culture and history. Urban and rural teachers and a delegation of students visit each other's schools and communities for one week.
    • Program Evaluation: Rose Urban Rural Teacher Training 2004

      Frazier, Rosyland; McDiarmid, G. Williamson; Hill, Alexandra (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska., 2004)
      Teacher Training, together with the Student Exchange and the Sister School Exchange, make up the Rose Urban Rural Exchange. That broad program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by the Alaska Humanities Forum. It is intended to build mutual understanding and a statewide sense of community by bringing urban students and teachers to rural Alaska-and rural students and teachers to urban Alaska-to learn about each other's cultures. Under the Teacher Training program, teachers from middle schools and high schools in urban areas participate in cultural camps sponsored by rural communities and Alaska Native organizations. These camps, many of which have been operating for more than a decade, introduce Native young people and adults to their traditions, histories, and cultures. Allowing urban teachers to share this experience is intended to help them develop a greater understanding of and respect for Alaska Native cultures and rural life.