Alaska fourth-graders rank dead last nationally in reading
In early September, the Anchorage School District released the results from PEAKS testing which took place in the spring.
"In 2017, 27,000 students that took the test," ASD Deputy Superintendent Dr. Mark Stock said. "They took it in three areas, English, Language Arts, Math and Science."
The results were not what the district was hoping to see.
"Out of 63 categories, our students in grades three through nine were only proficient in 14 of them," Stock said. "This year we improved that to 28."
PEAKS testing, which stands for Performance Evaluation for Alaska's Schools takes place once a year. It's an annual and required state test conducted nationally by all states that take federal funding.
"When we had standards in the late 1990s and early 2000s," Deb Riddle with the State Department of Education and Early Development said. "We had some discrepancies between the proficiency level between the standard state assessment and what NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) was saying."
The state standard was saying that Alaska's students were 75 to 80 percent proficient while NAEP was saying 40 percent.
"Then the state starts noticing that students enrolling in college were having to take remedial courses," Riddle said. "They had to take these courses and pay for them but wouldn't get any college credit. There were also stats saying that students were failing tests and kept them out of the military."
To combat the issue, new standards in the state of Alaska were adopted in 2012. More challenging standards were adopted. The new standards and testing started to mirror what NAEP was showing.
"We've been through a lot of changes since 2012," Riddle said. "This is the second year we've had PEAKS."
While proficiency numbers are down across the state, in each of the four targeted classroom areas, Alaska currently ranks dead last in the nation with fourth grade reading.
"Look, let's face it," Stock said. "Alaska as a whole on the last national assessment for educational progress for fourth-grade reading was last in the United States. Fiftieth of 50 states. We have a mission and Anchorage had over 70 schools in that sample. It's not like it's everyone else in Alaska challenged with that, it's all of us."
In analyzing the numbers, it turns out more than half of all third-graders in Alaska have a hard time reading. The numbers get worse as the students work their way through ninth grade. 64.66 percent of all freshman in the Anchorage School District are below proficiency in English and Language Arts. That number swells to 75.05 percent for the same age group when it comes to math proficiency. The Alaska state numbers aren't any better.
"You know it took a couple years to get that train rolling as far as adopting standards that were more rigorous," Riddle said. "We're now more in line with what other states are doing."
The Anchorage School District recently implemented a new curriculum in elementary schools and changed the format in middle schools to junior high to better remedy the issue.
"I don't know if we'll ever say we got it," Stock said. "This is until we have every grade level at a proficient level. Is that utopia? Yes, it's an idea but that's the goal and it shouldn't be anything less."
Copyright 2018 KTVA. All rights reserved.