Most Alaska students are not proficient in reading and math, state test scores show

A view of students sitting at their desks, from the back of the classroom
Students at Birchwood ABC Elementary School on Nov. 1, 2022. (Photo by Elyssa Loughlin/AKPM)

More than half of Alaska students tested below grade level in reading and math this spring.

That’s according to Alaska System of Academic Readiness scores released by the state department of education Thursday.

Seventy percent of third through ninth graders were not proficient in English, while 77% were not proficient in math. Education department commissioner Heidi Teshner called the results unsatisfactory.

“We are in a situation that no state likes to be in,” she said. “We have far too many students that are not proficient in the subject areas that are not just the foundation of the rest of school, but for the economy and the entire society.”

Teshner said she hoped the results would motivate parents to talk to teachers about their kids’ scores.

A pie chart showing Alaska students' proficiency in language arts
Statewide STAR scores show that 70% of students tested below grade-level proficiency in English language arts. (Screenshot from DEED presentation.)

Seventh and eighth grade students demonstrated the greatest need for support. Seventh graders needed the most support in English, while eighth graders needed the most math support. The department’s assessments director, Elizabeth Greninger, said that could be due to the pandemic.

“Those students had missed potentially some instruction in the fourth, to fifth, to sixth grade range,” Greninger said. “There are foundational skills that are in the standards for those grades that really serve as a foundation for seventh and eighth grade instruction in mathematics.”

Nationwide, math and reading scores fell during the first two years of the pandemic as the coronavirus upended school systems, according to a federal study.

In the Anchorage School District, 66% of students were not proficient in English, and 72% were not proficient in math on the state tests.

Among eighth graders in the district, 68% were not proficient in English, and 86% were not proficient in math. Alaska Native, African American and Hispanic eighth graders demonstrated the greatest need for support.

A table showing 8th graders' math proficiency broken down demographically
Among eighth graders in the Anchorage School District, African American, Alaska Native and Hispanic students were the most likely to need additional support. Statewide, eighth graders needed the most support in math. (Screenshot from DEED website.)

This was the first time students took the Alaska System of Academic Readiness assessment, so officials did not compare the results with previous years.

The Alaska Reads Act, which was signed into law this summer, goes into effect July 1, 2023. In the meantime, Teshner said, the department will provide training opportunities for teachers to learn new ways to teach reading. Next year’s statewide tests will also include a reading assessment for kindergarteners, first graders and second graders.

Alaska Public Media

Alaska Public Media is our partner station in Anchorage. KTOO collaborates with partners across the state to cover important news and to share stories with our audiences.

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