"Alaska’s decision not to participate until after we monitor this is based on our desire to spend our time and public resources to improve instruction in the classroom and to form productive relationships between schools and the communities they serve," Governor Palin said. "If this initiative produces useful results, Alaska will remain free to incorporate them in our own standards."Other states that have decided not to participate are Missouri, South Carolina and Texas.
Though Anchorage School District Superintendent Carol Comeau was disappointed with the governor's decision, other educators have applauded the governor for her refusal to allow federal standards to be imposed on Alaska.
Commissioner Larry LeDoux of the Department of Education and Early Development said that Alaskans have already invested considerable time and money to develop detailed standards for student performance and assessments to measure it in core subjects. And the state's Education Plan, he noted, includes a commitment to review Alaska's standards:
"Alaska’s assessments tell us useful information about our students," LeDoux said. "Used correctly, the data helps guide instruction and leads to improved student achievement. If standards and assessments are changed, schools and parents will not be able to compare their students' progress to recent years and once again we will be back to square one."Gov. Palin explained that standards are not the major issue Alaska's schools are facing:
"The major challenges are persistently low achievement among some students and a low graduation rate. Now is the time for the state and school districts to work together to improve instruction and student achievement."To address those issues, the governor's administration proposed and the legislature funded a pilot program to improve young children’s preparedness for school and an initiative to help struggling school districts become better able to serve their students.
The state is providing districts with technical assistance to adopt practices aimed at improving school and student performance, and it will employ a director of rural education, whose task will be to build bridges between schools and communities, drawing on local resources.
"The State of Alaska fully believes that schools must have high expectations of students," Governor Palin said. "But high expectations are not always created by new, mandated federal standards written on paper. They are created in the home, the community and the classroom."- JP