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Governor Palin announced that the State of Alaska has chosen to carefully monitor but will not participate in the initiative to create nationwide common core state standards in reading & math. The National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have announced they intend to work with states to formulate standards in English & math for kindergarten through grade 12 by December 2009.

“Alaska’s decision not to participate until after we monitor this is based on our desire to spend our time & public resources to improve instruction in the classroom & to form productive relationships between schools & the communities they serve,” Governor Palin said. “If this initiative produces useful results, Alaska will remain free to incorporate them in our own standards.”

Commissioner Larry LeDoux of the Department of Education & Early Development noted that Alaskans already have spent considerable time & money to develop detailed standards for the performance of students in grades 3 to 10 in reading, writing & math, including assessments to measure students in those core subjects. There also are numerous other standards for the content of curricula & the performance of younger students and of teachers.

Commissioner LeDoux noted that the Alaska Education Plan includes a commitment to review our standards. “Alaska’s assessments tell us useful information about our students,” LeDoux said. “Used correctly, the data helps guide instruction & leads to improved student achievement. If standards and assessments are changed, schools & parents will not be able to compare their students’ progress to recent years & once again we will be back to square one.”

“The standards are not the education problem we face,” The Governor said. “The major challenges are persistently low achievement among some students & a low graduation rate. Now is the time for the state and school districts to work together to improve instruction & student achievement.”

To that end, in this past legislative session the administration proposed & the legislature funded a pilot program to improve young children’s readiness for school & an initiative to help struggling school districts build a sustainable capacity to serve their students.

In addition to offering districts technical assistance in best practices that substantially influence school & student performance, the state will employ a director of rural education, who will build bridges between schools and communities, & draw 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 & the classroom.”
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