Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a statement Friday regarding the results of an annual assessment of how well students are meeting education standards statewide.
On Thursday, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development released results from the Performance Evaluations for Alaska’s Schools, or PEAKS, and the Alaska Science Assessment, indicating that, overall, students across the state are not meeting the benchmarks for proficiency in English language arts, mathematics and science.
The results cover the 2018-19 school year and are compiled from the 76,400 students tested that year. Scores fall within a four-tier scale: “advanced,” “proficient,” “below proficient” and “far below proficient.”
According to data from the Department of Education and Early Development, across the state 39.2 % of the students tested scored “proficient” or higher in English language arts. In mathematics, 35.7% of students scored at the proficient level or higher, and in science 44.6% of students scored proficient or higher.
Dunleavy has been critical of Alaska’s K-12 education in the past, citing low statewide test scores. He is a defendant in an ongoing lawsuit regarding the legality of forward funding for K-12 schools.
The Legislature has the stance that the forward funding, which was approved and signed into law by former Gov. Bill Walker, was within its rights to approve. Dunleavy contends that it unconstitutionally bound legislators and the governor to decisions made prior to their term. When school districts did not receive state funding that was set to be distributed in July, the legislative committee filed the lawsuit. Until the litigation is complete, both parties filed a joint motion, allowing school districts across the state to receive regular monthly funding installments.
In his recent statement, Dunleavy said the newest results from the PEAKS assessment should remind Alaskans of room for growth in the state education system.
“While some may wish to point fingers or make excuses, it is in our students’ best interest that we use these results as an opportunity to increase our sense of urgency and our commitment to better outcomes,” Dunleavy’s statement reads.
Dunleavy further stated he wants to focus on goals to increase student performances, including having students reading proficiently by the end of third grade and proficient in algebra by the end of eighth grade.
“As my administration has stated in the past, we must also be willing to move beyond the idea that more money, without changes to the way we provide education, will produce different results,” he concluded.
In the Fairbanks school district, students scored higher than the state averages across all subject matters. However, more than half of students tested still scored below below proficient or lower in English language arts, where 41.8% reached a proficient or higher score, and mathematics, where 39.3% reached a proficient score or higher. In science, 52% the Fairbanks students tested scored proficient or higher.
Ellis Ott, senior research analyst for the school district, will be giving a presentation about the results Sept. 17 at the regular school board meeting.
Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/FDNMlocal.