August 08, 2007
There was much to praise in Judge Sharon Gleason's late June decision rejecting claims that Alaska's schools are underfunded, and noting that traditional concepts of "local control" must be abandoned when schools repeatedly fail to educate kids. But there was much to criticize, too. In her ruling in Moore v. State of Alaska, Judge Gleason wrote that, despite being adequately funded, some schools were not giving students "a meaningful opportunity to acquire proficiency." Thus, she continued, high schoolers shouldn't be required to pass the state's exit exam to get their diplomas. Poor logic, that. If high-school diplomas in Alaska are to be worth anything, they must be tied to an objective external assessment of some kind. Some students in The Last Frontier are undoubtedly receiving flawed educations, but dropping the exit-exam requirement--i.e., lowering expectations for schools, teachers, and students--is a surefire way to make the situation even worse (note Indiana's experience, above). Bad schools exist in Alaska as well as other jurisdictions. But if states allow them to continue to churn out uneducated graduates year after year, they make positive change unlikely.
"In Alaska, school equality elusive," by Yereth Rosen, Christian Science Monitor, August 3, 2007
"Exit exam unfair," by Katie Pesznecker, Anchorage Daily News, June 22, 2007