State gets 'F' on national report card

State officials say improvements ignored

Posted: Friday, January 14, 2000

ANCHORAGE - Alaska's schools received mostly failing grades again this year in a report issued by a nationwide education publication.

State Education Commissioner Rick Cross said Education Week's Quality Counts 2000 survey was far off the mark.

``If the report was supposed to be a state-by-state status report on the performance of our nation's schools - that is, how well our students are achieving academically - it not only missed the bull's-eye, it missed the whole target,'' Cross said in a statement.

The Quality Counts survey gave Alaska an F in improving teacher quality. The same grade was given for three areas of school funding: adequacy, allocation and equity - the same as last year.

Alaska won a slightly improved grade - from D-plus to C-minus - in standards and accountability because it began implementing a new accountability system that includes a high school exit exam.

The report noted dwindling oil revenues and the state's budget deficit meant Alaska was having difficulty attracting good teachers. Salaries are slipping and rural districts are having an even harder time keeping teachers, Education Week said.

The report also noted voters' overwhelming rejection of tapping Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to fund government programs, including education. Bush communities, in particular, are having a hard time because they are almost entirely dependent on state funding, it said.

The report said the issue of teacher quality in Alaska has ``been relegated to the back burner by a state budget crisis and a related, long-simmering dispute about how to finance the state's most isolated rural districts.''

Cross said Education Week failed to recognize improvements and situations particular to Alaska in its critique. He also said the state is generous with its students, spending an average of $8,337 yearly on each, one of the highest amounts in the nation.

Cross accused Education Week of using its report to try to influence state education policies.

``We think it is wrong for a newspaper to try to influence through a grading system of A to F how state policy-makers should shape their individual education policies,'' he said.

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