JUNEAU — A legislative task force on Monday suggested revising teacher certification processes and prompting education leaders to better adapt to the digital age.
The panel, led by House Speaker Mike Chenault and Senate President Gary Stevens, cited poor preparedness among incoming university students —
50.1 percent of first-time freshmen need basic help in math, English or both to handle college course work.
The panel’s final report makes recommendations aimed at helping students better prepare for college or the workforce. It said the state has taken a few steps in that direction, citing the governor’s “reinvigorated interest” in education policy.
“However, we can no longer afford to take a position of non-effort, passivity, or denial regarding the critical importance of the educational level of our citizens,” the panel’s report said.
The task force — the Alaska Advisory Task Force on Higher Education & Career Readiness — suggested expanding nontraditional routes to teacher certification. In doing so, the panel said, the state could better attract specialists and competent minority teachers to the classroom. The current certification process, it said, could present barriers to qualified residents interested in teaching but lacking traditional credentials.
The panel also urged state officials and school districts to better wire classrooms to prepare “for effective distance delivery of curriculum” in the coming two years. It reported that private companies are advancing their own broadband projects across Alaska but said state government, while it waits, should do its part to ready schools for distance education.
The Legislature created the task force of lawmakers, administrators and education specialists last year.
Some teachers are struggling, the report said, to pass competency exams used for certification processes. Task force members suggested replacing the certification process with alternatives if “no correlation between success on PRAXIS” — the exams — “and subsequent success as a classroom teacher can be shown.”
The task force also recommended continuing a mentoring program that helps new teachers manage the classroom environment. It suggested school districts and the state university system encourage voluntary summer academies and create more bridging programs such as the Rural Alaska Honors Institute. It said RAHI students are four times more likely to finish college than other students.
The task force wants its recommendations implemented by mid-2017 although some, such as the broadband initiative and a public awareness campaign “about the importance of finishing high school,” can come far sooner. It asked the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development to submit annual implementation reports to the Legislature.