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  • What drives the cost of education in Alaska?

    DeFeo, Dayna (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2019-04-15)
  • Dual Enrollment in Alaska: A 10-year retrospective and outcome analysis

    DeFeo, Dayna; Tran, Trang (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2019-05-24)
    This paper explores University of Alaska dual enrollment (DE) offerings from 2008 to 2017. It details the distribution of programs across geographic and demographic groups, examines student participation and academic outcomes over this 10-year period, and describes how current DE activities compare to the decade prior. DE enrollments have increased by 85% in the past 10 years, while headcount has increased by 49%, indicating that, on average, students are taking more DE courses while in high school. DE students complete 93% of their courses satisfactorily; 66% apply to a UA institution when they graduate high school and 41% attend. Though the program is more representative than it was 10 years ago, our analysis notes a persistent participation and performance gap for rural and Alaska Native students.
  • Good collaborations: A case study of the Health Information Technology partnership

    DeFeo, Dayna Jean (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2016-01-01)
    The Health Information Technology grant was a collaborative partnership between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), the University of Alaska Community & Technical College (UAA CTC) and the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) to establish the infrastructure for a distance-delivered Occupational Endorsement in Health Information Technology. This document describes a case study research project that explored the activities of the collaboration, specifically as they pertain to student services and outcomes. Student eligibility criteria included: Alaska Native, low-income, GED or high school diploma, and a 10th grade TABE test score; many of the student participants exhibited demographic characteristics that placed them at high risk for noncompletion. Ultimately, 10 of 25 (40%) completed the credential, and of these graduates, five are continuing their postsecondary studies for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. These success rates that exceed national averages for community college students prompted the team to explore the program elements that contributed to student success. A qualitative case study collected interview data from student completers, program staff, and faculty. It also reviewed program documents, and included visits to the physical spaces where the program was delivered. Tangible or material resources that contributed to the program’s success included stipends for student tuition and fees plus hourly compensation for time spent in class; the provision of laptops; adequate technology; staff and services that supported college transitions, social and personal needs, and academic success; a face-to-face kickoff event; and a cohort model. Qualitative aspects of the program that fostered success include staff commitment and positive attitude; clear roles for partners with a distributed workload; alignment of program objectives to each of the partners’ missions; communication; and student perseverance. Program elements that need to be revised, expanded, or improved prior to a second iteration include course sequencing, recruitment, technology, class times, and additional stipends. Opportunities for additional programming include industry involvement, career exploration, options for students who “change majors” or decide that the HIT field is not a good fit for their interests, job seeking and career planning support, additional attention to college readiness and soft skills, and incorporation of Alaska Native culture. A review of program elements that worked and need improvement identified opportunities to better align theory and philosophy, and to strengthen communication between staff and faculty who have complementary responsibilities to one another and to students. These discussions are recommended in order to develop more intentional and focused recruiting, to strengthen communication, and to develop a more culturally responsive curriculum. Though the program does not yet present itself as a best practice model, the program strengths and lessons learned were used to develop considerations for other programs and partnerships wishing to develop similar delivery methods.
  • Pathways to College Preparatory Advanced Academic Offerings in the Anchorage School District

    Frazier, Rosyland (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2016-10-01)
    There are many ways a child in the Anchorage School District (ASD) can access advanced course offerings. To a parent these pathways may seem complex. ASD offers options for gifted and highly gifted students at the elementary and middle school level, and accelerated, and enriched learning opportunities such as honors and advanced placement courses at the secondary level. These opportunities, though linked, are not the same, nor do they necessarily follow from one to another in a straight path. Moreover, pathways to and through these opportunities can be quite different. Offerings are different at the elementary, middle and high school levels, with differing qualifications and eligibility. And, some of the programs are only offered in a few particular schools. This variety provides lots of flexibility. It also creates a complex path of choices and decisions. In all of these pathways and choices, active advocacy by a parent is necessary to ensure that their child receive the best and most appropriate opportunities. In this report we describe the many advanced and accelerated learning opportunities available in Anchorage elementary, middle and high schools, and the ways students can access these opportunities. We provide visuals including figures, tables and text to highlight the pathways to and through advanced offerings from Kindergarten to 12th grade. This document is based upon publicly available information. We have combined information from the ASD gifted program website the ASD High School Handbook, the ASD High School Program of Studies guide, and minutes of the ASD Board meetings. We also spoke with staff in the gifted program at ASD. Individual school-level issues that are outside of ASD policy and procedures have not been included. This report focused on the services, programs and schools within the Anchorage School District that service as pathways to college preparation and advance academic course offerings. As we describe in more detail in this report, there are very different offerings and paths at the elementary, middle and high school. In general, there are gifted and highly gifted programs at the elementary and middle school level, and a highly gifted program at the high school level. At all school levels, the highly gifted programs are offered at a limited number of schools. In high school, all students (including those in the highly gifted program) have the opportunity to take honors and advanced placement classes. Math is not included in the middle and high school gifted program. Math instead is a curriculum progression. Advanced math opportunities usually start in 6th grade, when students can choose placement into math courses that are a higher than the usual level. Opting for advanced math in 6th grade puts a student on track to reach Algebra I in 8th grade and calculus in 12th. At the elementary school level ASD operates gifted programs in all schools and a highly gifted program in one. There are also alternative and optional schools, which offer accelerated and enriched learning environments. If a student is in the highly gifted or gifted program in elementary school, he or she usually transitions to gifted and highly gifted middle school programs. In middle school these programs 3 include gifted language arts and science classes. Students who were not a part of the gifted program in elementary school can access the middle school gifted program, by testing in. Many optional and alternative programs provide enriched and accelerated classes to all students in them. For high school students there is a greater variety of advanced offerings. Starting in 9th grade there are honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Credit-by-Choice options, and optional programs within the high schools and alternative schools. Students in the middle school gifted and highly gifted program have the opportunity to transition into the high school Highly Gifted Program. The following table provides a look at advanced offerings at different school levels. Each of these offerings is discussed in the report.
  • An Exploration of Experiences and Outcomes of Alaska Native Graduates of Mt. Edgecumbe High School

    Hirshberg, Diane; DelMoral, Brit (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2009-04-01)
    In Alaska’s schools, indigenous1 students are the most at risk of any ethnic group of failing to thrive; they drop out more frequently, are less likely to graduate, and generally have lower educational attainment than non-Native students(Martin and Hill, 2009). Indeed, the situation appears to be worsening. The dropout rate of Alaska Native students living in all areas of Alaska besides Anchorage has risen from 0.7 percent in 1996 to 3.3 percent in 2001 (Goldsmith et al. 2004). Dropout rates among all Native students in Alaska increased from 5 percent to almost 10 percent between 1998 and 2001, while the dropout rate among non-Native students increased from about 3 percent to 5 percent (ibid). In addition, low test scores are preventing many students from graduating from high school—almost half of Alaska Native students are not passing the reading section of the High-School Graduation Qualifying Exam. The educational system in Alaska is failing to provide Alaska Native students the skills necessary either for postsecondary academic work or success in the job market, if that is what they desire. However, one secondary school, Mt. Edgecumbe High School, a boarding school located in Southeast Alaska that serves predominately rural and Alaska Native students, has produced students that consistently outperform their peers, both indigenous and nonNative. The reputation of the school has been strong for decades, based on both historic and recent accomplishments of its alumni. However, the experiences of recent alumni at the school and their professional and educational attainment after high school had not been looked at systematically for a number of years. This paper is the result of a study conducted by the authors on recent graduates of Mt. Edgecumbe High School (MEHS), at the suggestion of school administrators. Our case study attempts to capture the educational, social, and cultural experiences of the students while they attended the boarding school, and the impacts the school has had on their lives. With this research we hope to inform the decisions o f policymakers and educators, indigenous and non-Native alike, regarding rural secondary schooling options in Alaska for indigenous children across the state.
  • Turnover Among Alaska Teachers: Is It Changing?

    Hill, Alexandra; Hirshberg, Diane (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2008-07-01)
    Turnover among Alaska’s teachers was roughly the same in 2007 as it had been in 1999, with about 14% leaving their school districts (Figure 1). Turnover also remained twice as high in rural as in urban districts—about 22%, compared with 10%. That lack of broad change comes after years of efforts by Alaska’s state government, universities, and school districts to reduce teacher turnover, especially in rural areas.
  • Alaska Teacher Supply and Demand Update

    Hill, Alexandra; Hirshberg, Diane (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2006-04-01)
    Alaska Teacher Placement (ATP) has contracted with the Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) between 2005 and 2007 to identify and analyze trends in K-12 educator supply and demand in the State of Alaska, including teacher turnover rates. This report is an analysis of Alaskan teacher supply and turnover data from 1999-2004, and projects supply and demand data for the next five years.
  • Thirty Years Later: The Long-Term Effect of Boarding Schools on Alaska Natives and Their Communities

    Sharp, Suzanne; Hirshberg, Diane (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2005-09-01)
    In 2004 and 2005 we gathered information on how boarding school and boarding home experiences affected individual Alaska Natives, their families, and communities. From the early 1900s to the 1970s Alaska Natives were taken from rural communities that lacked either primary or secondary schools and sent to boarding schools run by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), by private churches or, later, by Alaska’s state government. Some were also sent to boarding homes to attend school in urban places. We interviewed 61 Alaska Native adults who attended boarding schools or participated in the urban boarding home program from the late 1940s through the early 1980s, as well as one child of boarding-school graduates. Their experiences, some of which are shared in this report, reveal a glimpse of both the positive and negative effects of past boarding schools. Many of those we interviewed spoke with ambivalence about their boarding school experience, finding both good and bad elements. Some of the good experiences included going to schools that had high expectations of the students; educators and other school personnel who developed personal relationships with students; individualized support for students who were struggling; and discipline and structure that was supportive, not punitive. For many of those we interviewed, boarding school offered an opportunity to learn about the world beyond village boundaries and to develop lasting friendships. But these good experiences came at a cost. The cost for some was abuse,; interviewees reported physical and sexual abuse at theWrangell Institute. At that school, children were forbidden to speak their native languages and were even beaten for speaking them. The goal of many educators at the time of mandatory boarding schools was to assimilate people of different cultures and ethnicities into the dominant culture. This cost many students not only the loss of their language, but also their culture and identity. These practices had lasting effects on individual students, their families, and communities. Those we interviewed told of finding it difficult to return home and be accepted. They felt that by being sent to boarding school they had missed out on learning important traditional skills and had a harder time raising their own children. For communities, the loss of children to boarding schools created a tremendous void, one that interviewees said was filled by alcohol and a breakdown in society. Drugs, alcohol, and suicide are some of the effects interviewees spoke of as coming from boarding home experiences and the loss of cultural identity and family. In 1976, the State of Alaska agreed to build schools in rural communities having eight (later ten) or more school-age children. When these schools were built, it was no longer necessary to send Native children to boarding schools. However, there is now an ongoing policy debate over the cost and quality of these local schools and whether Native children might be better off attending schools outside their communities. We hope that policymakers consider Alaska Natives’ past experiences with boarding schools reported here and learn from them. Boarding Schools, p. iv One important caveat to this report is that it is not a comprehensive analysis of the boarding school experience. It is based on experiences of the people who were able to participate in our survey. There are many who were unable to participate, for a variety of reasons. Some have left the state; others are homeless; some live in remote rural villages and either did not hear about our project or were unable to come to the urban hubs where we did our work. Sadly, too, some have died. For these reasons, we use caution in drawing conclusions about the experience. Instead, we have done our best to present some of the stories shared with us in the hope that they will encourage others to come forward with more stories from their experiences. Only as people share their experiences can we learn more about the lasting effects of the boarding home experience on individual Alaska Natives and their communities.
  • Alaska Civic Learning Assessment Project: Final Report and Policy Brief

    Hill, Alexandra; Hirshberg, Diane; Fickel, Letitia (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2006-11-01)
    In late 2002, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) and Carnegie Corporation of New York, in consultation with the Corporation for National and Community Service, convened a series of meetings involving some of the nation’s most distinguished and respected scholars and practitioners in the area of civic education. The purpose was to determine, based on solid data and evidence, the components of effective and feasible civic learning programs. Representing a diversity of political views, a variety of disciplines, and various approaches, these individuals shared a common vision of a richer, more comprehensive approach to civic education in the United States, notwithstanding some disagreement about aspects of how civic education should be conducted. Their final report, entitled The Civic Mission of Schools, is a compelling statement of the national landscape regarding civic learning and the critical role that schools play in fostering citizenship education. Below is an excerpt from the report’s Executive Summary: For more than 250 years, Americans have shared a vision of a democracy in which all citizens understand, appreciate, and engage actively in civic and political life. In recent decades, however, increasing numbers of Americans have disengaged from civic and political institutions such as voluntary associations, religious congregations, community-based organizations, and political and electoral activities such as voting and being informed about public issues. Young people reflect these trends: they are less likely to vote and are less interested in political discussion and public issues than either their older counterparts or young people of past decades. As a result, many young Americans may not be prepared to participate fully in our democracy now and when they become adults. Recognizing that individuals do not automatically become free and responsible citizens but must be educated for citizenship, scholars; teachers; civic leaders; local, state, and federal policymakers; and federal judges, have with the encouragement of the president of the United States, called for new strategies that can capitalize on young people’s idealism and their commitment to service and voluntarism while addressing their disengagement from political and civic institutions. One of the most promising approaches to increase young people’s informed engagement is school-based civic education. The CIRCLE report identified the following major reasons why schools are ACLAP Final Report & Policy Brief Page 2 important venues for civic education: • It is crucial for the future health of our democracy that all young people, including those who are usually marginalized, be knowledgeable, engaged in their communities and in politics, and committed to the public good. • Encouraging the development of civic skills and attitudes among young people has been an important goal of education and was the primary impetus for originally establishing public schools. • Schools are the only institutions with the capacity and mandate to reach virtually every young person in the country. Of all institutions, schools are the most systematically and directly responsible for imparting citizen norms. • Schools are best equipped to address the cognitive aspects of good citizenship—civic and political knowledge and related skills such as critical thinking and deliberation. • Schools are communities in which young people learn to interact, argue, and work together with others, an important foundation for future citizenship. As a result of the CIRCLE report, the national Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools (CCMS) was launched in 2004, funded by the Carnegie Corp and the Knight Foundation (www.civicmissionofschools.org). The CCMS campaign is working with coalition members and advocates across the political spectrum to dramatically elevate civic learning as an educational priority. The ultimate goal of the campaign is to ensure that schools in the U.S. provide each and every student with a citizenship education that allows them to acquire the skills, knowledge and attitudes that will prepare them to be competent and responsible citizens throughout their lives. Such citizens are those who: • are informed and thoughtful about the history and processes of American democracy and public and community issues and have the ability to obtain information, think critically, and participate in dialogue with others who hold different perspectives; • participate in their communities through organizations working to address cultural, social, political, and religious interests and beliefs; • act politically using the skills, knowledge and commitment needed to accomplish public purposes such as group problem solving, public speaking, petitioning and protesting, and voting; and ACLAP Final Report & Policy Brief Page 3 • have moral and civic virtues such as concern for the rights and welfare of others, social responsibility, tolerance and respect, and belief in their ability to make a difference. As part of the CCMS campaign, competitive grants were awarded to 18 states for projects to advance civic learning. In September 2004, the Alaska Teaching Justice Network (ATJN), a statewide coalition of public, educational, legal, and judicial organizations and individuals dedicated to advancing law-related education in Alaska, secured a small grant from the campaign to conduct the Alaska Civic Learning Assessment (ACLA) Project. The goal of the ACLA Project is to better understand the current state of K-12 civic learning in Alaska and to assess the civic knowledge and experiences of Alaska's youth. The project has focused on both civics topics common across the United States and those unique to Alaska, with the goal of informing efforts to improve civic education in the state. After a brief overview of national research on civic education, this report presents findings from the ACLA Project research on the current status of civic education in Alaska, the civic knowledge of youth and adults, and the attitudes about civic education held by educators, youth and elders.
  • Why Aren't They Teaching? A study of why some University of Alaska teacher education graduates aren't in classrooms

    Hill, Alexandra; Hirshberg, Diane; Shaw, Donna Gail (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2013-01-01)
    Alaska Statute 14.40.190(b), passed as Senate Bill 241 in 2008, requires the University of Alaska (UA) Board of Regents to submit a report each regular session titled Alaska’s University for Alaska’s Schools that “describes the efforts of the university to attract, train, and retain qualified public school teachers.” In 2012 this report documented that approximately 50% of UA initial teacher preparation graduates did not teach in Alaska public schools after completing their programs. Unfortunately, the data available could not tell us the reasons why so many graduates were not employed as teachers. In response to legislators’ questions about this, the three UA Education deans (with support from the Center for Alaska Education Policy Research) made a commitment to conduct a 2012 research project to understand why graduates of UA initial teacher preparation programs did or did not teach in Alaska public schools after completing their programs. This project was conducted in response to that commitment.
  • Quality Teacher Evaluation in Alaska: Voices from the Field

    Laster, Martin (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2013-10-01)
    This brief focuses on the results of research regarding teacher evaluation policy and practice among a pilot group of Alaska Superintendents. The results of this report are intended to guide policy makers on creating and supporting policies which enable school leaders to effectively evaluate and support classroom teachers, helping to elicit the best from teachers on behalf of Alaska students. As Darling‐Hammond (1999) states, “Despite conventional wisdom that school inputs make little difference in student learning, a growing body of research suggests that schools can make a difference, and a substantial portion of that difference is attributable to teachers.” It is critical that we identify how to enable teachers to increase desired performance for every student.
  • Alternative Certification: A Research Brief

    Hirshberg, Diane (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2011-10-01)
    Alternative teacher certification (ATC) encompasses a broad range of programs that prepare teachers in non-traditional, accelerated ways (Suell and Piotrowski 2007). The number of teachers prepared through alternative routes has increased considerably in the past decade. As of 2011, 16% of public school teachers nationwide had entered the profession through some kind of alternative program, and in the last five years, 40% of new hires have come through ATC programs (Feistritzer 2011). In this brief I offer a short overview of research on the outcomes of alternative certification programs compared with traditional certification, summarize findings about what makes for effective alternative certification programs, and describe ATC programs in Alaska. Generally, ATC programs are aimed at people who are interested in becoming teachers and have at least a bachelor’s degree, as well as extensive life experience. But how these programs are defined and what they include varies considerably (Humphrey and Wechsler 2007). In this brief, alternative certification is defined as a program in which teacher candidates work as the instructor of record while completing their teacher certification. These programs are considered to be both a means of alleviating teacher shortages and a way of improving the quality of the teaching workforce. In addition to shortening the preparation time and being more flexible for working participants, ATC programs also typically incorporate mentoring (Mikulecky, Shkodriani et al. 2004; Scribner and Heinen 2009). The programs range from initiatives run by school districts and state departments of education to university-operated efforts run alongside traditional teacher preparation programs (Yao and Williams 2010).
  • Alaska Teacher Turnover, Supply, and Demand: 2013 Highlights

    Hill, Alexandra (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2013-06-01)
    T he figures in this document show a few findings from the forthcoming report, 2013 Alaska Educator Supply, Demand, and Turnover. They focus mostly on teacher turnover and mobility in recent years. The data show that: Teacher turnover in Alaska has declined slightly in the last few years, but not significantly. Annual teacher turnover rates vary hugely among rural districts, ranging from a low of 7% to over 52%, while urban districts have turnover rates that are generally lower and more similar, from about 8% to just over 10%. Among teachers with less than 10 years of experience, those who prepared to be teachers in Alaska have much lower turnover rates than those from Outside. Among teachers with more than 10 years of experience, turnover rates for the two groups are about the same. ¾ Most—around 80%—of teachers who leave both urban and rural districts leave the Alaska school system entirely. Teachers prepared in Alaska are far more likely to work in urban than in rural districts. On average from 2008-2012, about 64% of teachers hired by districts statewide were from outside Alaska. Almost 90% of teachers in Alaska are White. Alaska Natives and American Indians continue to make up only about 5% of the teacher workforce.
  • Will they stay, or will they go? Teacher perceptions of working conditions in rural Alaska

    Hill, Alexandra; Hirshberg, Diane; Kasemodel, Craig (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2014-06-01)
    Teacher turnover in rural Alaska schools has been a significant problem for decades. Why do we care? National research indicates a strong correlation between high turnover and poor student outcomes (Ronfeldt, Loeb and Wyckoff, 2012), and we see this in Alaska. Out of the 25 rural districts with high teacher turnover rates, ten graduated fewer than 60% of their students between 2008 and 2012, and 5 graduated fewer than half their students.
  • Alaska career pathways: A baseline analysis

    DeFeo, Dayna Jean; Hirshberg, Diane; LeCompte, Cathy (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2014-06-01)
    This report details the findings from a 2013 statewide study of career pathways (CP) and programs of study (PoS) in secondary districts in Alaska. Twenty-seven of Alaska’s 54 districts provided data around the maturity of their CP/PoS, the availability of different CP/PoS, how career planning is addressed, and the availability of courses and PoS in the Health Sciences cluster. The differences between urban and rural communities are often noted in conversations around education, programming and policy in Alaska, and the data in this report reflect this established phenomenon. The contribution of this report is in helping to demystify and contextualize some of these known differences, and to make differentiated recommendations for moving forward.
  • Early college placement testing: Outcomes and impacts of the Early ACCUPLACER partnership

    DeFeo, Dayna Jean (Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2017-03-31)
    The Early ACCUPLACER Program was administered in partnership between the University of Alaska (UAA) and Anchorage School District (ASD) between 2006 and 2013. Using the UAA placement test (ACCUPLACER) as an instructional tool, the program intended to help students understand the differences between high school graduation requirements and college-level coursework. Test scores were used to advise students to take more rigorous high school curricula so they would be better prepared for the academic expectations of the college environment. In its seven years of operation, the program served thousands of ASD students. This report reviews Early ACCUPLACER test scores and subsequent academic performance for high school juniors and seniors who tested in the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years. The data show that, at the time of testing, many of those high school students’ test scores would place them into developmental classes in college. This analysis was unable to examine high school transcripts to see whether or not students heeded advice to take additional and more rigorous high school courses; however, by following the participants who subsequently attended college in the UA system1, the data show: • Students who participated in the program did not exhibit substantively higher college placement test scores than other incoming students who did not receive the intervention. • Most students who participated in the program performed better on the test at the time of college matriculation than when they took it in high school, but the increases in performance, on average, were not large enough to change their recommended course placements. For approximately a quarter of students, test performance decreased between high school and college. • Upon matriculation, more students needed developmental coursework in math than in English or reading. • Upon attending college, between two-thirds and three-quarters of the Early ACCUPLACER program participants performed well enough in their first year to meet eligibility requirements for federal financial aid. • Persistence rates for Early ACCUPLACER participants were slightly higher than the overall UAA rates; however they were similar to other recent high school graduates, who tend to have higher persistence rates than nontraditional-aged students. The data suggest that the program did not significantly impact the college readiness or later college performance for its participants who later attended UA. However, the data and literature suggest opportunities to use high school-college partnerships as part of a robust outreach agenda. Recommendations include evaluating the relationship between high school course-taking behavior and college readiness, and broadening the definition of “college readiness” to include other attributes known to promote success.
  • The Cost of Teacher Turnover in Alaska

    DeFeo, Dayna Jean; Tran, Trang; Hirshberg, Diane; Cope, Dale; Cravez, Pamela (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2017-03-31)
    Low teacher retention - high turnover - affects student learning. Teacher recruitment and retention are challenging issues in Alaska. Rates vary considerably from district to district and year to year, but between 2004 and 2014, district-level teacher turnover in rural Alaska averaged 20%, and about a dozen districts experienced annual turnover rates higher than 30%. High turnover rates in rural Alaska are often attributed to remoteness and a lack of amenities (including healthcare and transportation); teachers who move to these communities face additional challenges including finding adequate housing and adjusting to a new and unfamiliar culture and environment. Though urban districts have lower teacher turnover rates, they also have challenges with teacher recruitment and retention, particularly in hard-to-fill positions (such as special education and secondary mathematics) and in difficult-to-staff schools. Annually, Alaskan school districts hire about 1,000 teachers (500-600 are hired by its five largest districts), while Alaska’s teacher preparation programs graduate only around 200. The costs associated with teacher turnover in Alaska are considerable, but have never been systematically calculated,1 and this study emerged from interests among Alaska education researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders to better understand these costs. Using data collected from administrators in 37 of Alaska’s 54 districts, we describe teacher turnover and the costs associated with it in four key categories: separation, recruitment, hiring, and induction and training. Our calculations find that the total average cost of teacher turnover is $20,431.08 per teacher. Extrapolating this to Alaska’s 2008-2012 turnover data, this constitutes a cost to school districts of approximately $20 million per year. We focused on costs to Alaskan school districts, rather than costs to individual communities, schools, or the state. Our calculation is a conservative estimate, and reflects typical teacher turnover circumstances - retirement, leaving the profession, or moving to a new school district. We did not include unusual circumstances, such as mid-year departures or terminations. Our cost estimate includes costs of separation, recruitment, hiring, and orientation and training, and excludes the significant costs of teacher productivity and teacher preparation. We suggest that not all turnover is bad, nor are all turnover costs; and emphasize the need to focus on teacher retention as a goal, rather than reducing turnover costs. Even with conservative estimates, teacher turnover is a significant strain on districts’ personnel and resources, and in an era of shrinking budgets, teacher turnover diverts resources from teaching and learning to administrative processes of filling teacher vacancies. Our recommendations include: • Better track teacher turnover costs • Explore how to reduce teacher turnover costs • Support ongoing research around teacher turnover and its associated costs • Explore conditions driving high teacher turnover, and how to address them
  • Pathways to College Preparatory Advanced Academic Offerings in the Anchorage School District

    Hirshberg, Diane; Frazier, Rosyland (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2016-10-14)
    There are many ways a child in the Anchorage School District (ASD) can access advanced course offerings. To a parent these pathways may seem complex. ASD offers options for gifted and highly gifted students at the elementary and middle school level, and accelerated, and enriched learning opportunities such as honors and advanced placement courses at the secondary level. These opportunities, though linked, are not the same, nor do they necessarily follow from one to another in a straight path. Moreover, pathways to and through these opportunities can be quite different. Offerings are different at the elementary, middle and high school levels, with differing qualifications and eligibility. And, some of the programs are only offered in a few particular schools. This variety provides lots of flexibility. It also creates a complex path of choices and decisions. In all of these pathways and choices, active advocacy by a parent is necessary to ensure that their child receive the best and most appropriate opportunities. In this report we describe the many advanced and accelerated learning opportunities available in Anchorage elementary, middle and high schools, and the ways students can access these opportunities. We provide visuals including figures, tables and text to highlight the pathways to and through advanced offerings from Kindergarten to 12th grade. This document is based upon publicly available information. We have combined information from the ASD gifted program website the ASD High School Handbook, the ASD High School Program of Studies guide, and minutes of the ASD Board meetings. We also spoke with staff in the gifted program at ASD. Individual school-level issues that are outside of ASD policy and procedures have not been included. This report focused on the services, programs and schools within the Anchorage School District that service as pathways to college preparation and advance academic course offerings. As we describe in more detail in this report, there are very different offerings and paths at the elementary, middle and high school. In general, there are gifted and highly gifted programs at the elementary and middle school level, and a highly gifted program at the high school level. At all school levels, the highly gifted programs are offered at a limited number of schools. In high school, all students (including those in the highly gifted program) have the opportunity to take honors and advanced placement classes. Math is not included in the middle and high school gifted program. Math instead is a curriculum progression. Advanced math opportunities usually start in 6th grade, when students can choose placement into math courses that are a higher than the usual level. Opting for advanced math in 6th grade puts a student on track to reach Algebra I in 8th grade and calculus in 12th. At the elementary school level ASD operates gifted programs in all schools and a highly gifted program in one. There are also alternative and optional schools, which offer accelerated and enriched learning environments. If a student is in the highly gifted or gifted program in elementary school, he or she usually transitions to gifted and highly gifted middle school programs. In middle school these programs 3 include gifted language arts and science classes. Students who were not a part of the gifted program in elementary school can access the middle school gifted program, by testing in. Many optional and alternative programs provide enriched and accelerated classes to all students in them. For high school students there is a greater variety of advanced offerings. Starting in 9th grade there are honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Credit-by-Choice options, and optional programs within the high schools and alternative schools. Students in the middle school gifted and highly gifted program have the opportunity to transition into the high school Highly Gifted Program.
  • Good collaborations: A case study of the Health Information Technology partnership

    DeFeo, Dayna Jean (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2016-01-01)
    The Health Information Technology grant was a collaborative partnership between the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC), the University of Alaska Community & Technical College (UAA CTC) and the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) to establish the infrastructure for a distance-delivered Occupational Endorsement in Health Information Technology. This document describes a case study research project that explored the activities of the collaboration, specifically as they pertain to student services and outcomes. Student eligibility criteria included: Alaska Native, low-income, GED or high school diploma, and a 10th grade TABE test score; many of the student participants exhibited demographic characteristics that placed them at high risk for noncompletion. Ultimately, 10 of 25 (40%) completed the credential, and of these graduates, five are continuing their postsecondary studies for an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. These success rates that exceed national averages for community college students prompted the team to explore the program elements that contributed to student success. A qualitative case study collected interview data from student completers, program staff, and faculty. It also reviewed program documents, and included visits to the physical spaces where the program was delivered. Tangible or material resources that contributed to the program’s success included stipends for student tuition and fees plus hourly compensation for time spent in class; the provision of laptops; adequate technology; staff and services that supported college transitions, social and personal needs, and academic success; a face-to-face kickoff event; and a cohort model. Qualitative aspects of the program that fostered success include staff commitment and positive attitude; clear roles for partners with a distributed workload; alignment of program objectives to each of the partners’ missions; communication; and student perseverance. Program elements that need to be revised, expanded, or improved prior to a second iteration include course sequencing, recruitment, technology, class times, and additional stipends. Opportunities for additional programming include industry involvement, career exploration, options for students who “change majors” or decide that the HIT field is not a good fit for their interests, job seeking and career planning support, additional attention to college readiness and soft skills, and incorporation of Alaska Native culture. A review of program elements that worked and need improvement identified opportunities to better align theory and philosophy, and to strengthen communication between staff and faculty who have complementary responsibilities to one another and to students. These discussions are recommended in order to develop more intentional and focused recruiting, to strengthen communication, and to develop a more culturally responsive curriculum. Though the program does not yet present itself as a best practice model, the program strengths and lessons learned were used to develop considerations for other programs and partnerships wishing to develop similar delivery methods.
  • Salary & Benefits Schedule and Teacher Tenure Study

    Hirshberg, Diane; Berman, Matthew; DeFeo, Dayna Jean; Hill, Alexandra (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2015-11-13)
    House Bill 278, passed by the legislature in spring 2014, instructed the Department of Administration to “present to the legislature a written proposal for a salary and benefits schedule for school districts, including an evaluation of, and recommendations for, teacher tenure” (Sec. 52). In order to meet this mandate, the Alaska Department of Administration contracted with the UAA Center for Alaska Education Policy Research (CAEPR) to produce the following deliverables:  Develop geographic cost differentials for different school districts  Develop base salary and benefit schedules for teachers and principals  Describe superintendent duties, compensation, and responsibilities in Alaska districts  Prepare a list of different benefit options school districts offer their employees and their associated costs  Provide recommendations regarding teacher tenure policy  Describe similarities and differences between the certified and classified labor markets in Alaska Each section of this report responds to a specific task or responsibility from this list.

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