Alaska history course has costs

Posted: Sunday, January 09, 2005

The new state mandate that high school students take a one-semester course in Alaska history, or show proficiency in the subject, comes with a price.

It may cost students a choice in an elective, or it may cost the Juneau School District money to hire another teacher, say teachers.

If the course uses textbooks, more will need to be bought. Printing materials from curricular Web sites costs money, too.

Right now, Juneau-Douglas High School offers a one-semester Alaska history course as an elective to sophomores through seniors. About 120 students take it each year, said teacher Kurt Dzinich.

If the school has to provide the course to all of its roughly 1,650 students, it will need to offer many more sections.

There are two ways, at least, to do that. One is to reduce the sections of other social studies electives, such as law, psychology and sociology. The other is to hire staff to teach the added Alaska history sections.

It would take at least one full-time teacher to do that, said social studies department chairwoman Gretchen Kriegmont.

The department supported the Alaska history mandate but only if it didn't come at the expense of other electives, she said.

To meet JDHS's graduation requirements in social studies, students now must take a year each of U.S. and world history, a half-year of American government, and a half-year elective.

Among the ways the madate could be met is to increase the number of required social studies credits, with or without increasing the total credits required for graduation. But any plan that doesn't add to the teaching staff is likely to cut into enrollments for other courses.

Tim Travis, who graduated from JDHS last year, agrees with the state mandate. The Alaska history course he took as an elective made him a more knowledgeable voter and citizen, he said.

"It helps you say, 'This needs to be done' or not because it's been tried before," Travis said.

Ben Cotter, a senior, is taking Alaska history by choice but doesn't think it should have been mandated. The requirement will reduce students' options to take other courses, he said.

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