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Equity & Diversity Project

Letters From Alaska

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When it comes to education, the 49th state faces its own challenges, some of which are unique to Alaska and some that it shares with other rural states. This three-part series explores how cultural and geographic barriers, teacher shortages, historical developments, and other factors have shaped schooling in Alaska.

At a Glance

Census

The state had an estimated 737,438 residents as of 2018, including 25 percent under 18


There are 229 federally recognized Indian tribes, which are also referred to as Native Villages.

Size

663,300 square miles, nearly 2½ times larger than Texas

Schools & Students in 2018-19

509 schools (2017-18)

54 school districts

128,800 K-12 students

State Funding Per Pupil

At $17,872 in 2019, Alaska’s per-pupil spending is among the highest in the nation

Teachers

7,889 classroom teachers, including part-time

16.35 to 1 student-to-teacher ratio

$70,277 average annual salary

12% statewide average annual turnover, the 12th highest teacher turnover rate in the nation

20% average rural teacher turnover

64% of teacher hires are from out of state

5% of teachers are Alaska Natives

Map

Author Victoria Petersen traveled from her home on the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage and Scammon Bay for the first two stories in the series. For the final story, she traveled to Kachemak Selo.


SOURCES: Education Week’s Quality Counts; Alaska Department of Education and Early Development; National Center for Education Statistics; U.S. Census; Arctic Council; Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage

The Kachemak Selo School serves 39 students in grades K-12 in a roadless and remote village established by Russian Old Believers, a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The Kachemak Selo School serves 39 students in grades K-12 in a roadless and remote village established by Russian Old Believers, a branch of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Ash Adams for Education Week
School & District Management Project An Alaskan Village's Long Wait for a New School
Rural schools struggle to maintain adequate buildings, but the quest for a new school has been fraught for this remote Old Believer village.
Victoria Petersen, February 11, 2020
8 min read
Joshua Gill, director of personnel and student services for Lower Kuskokwim schools in Alaska, recruits teachers at a job fair in Homestead, Pa.
Joshua Gill, director of personnel and student services for Lower Kuskokwim schools in Alaska, recruits teachers at a job fair in Homestead, Pa.
Jared Wickerham for Education Week
Recruitment & Retention Project A Perennial Challenge in Rural Alaska: Getting and Keeping Teachers
Recruiters are offering bonuses, free housing, and airfare to entice teachers to their remote districts—and competition is about to worsen.
Victoria Petersen, September 10, 2019
10 min read
The East Anchorage High and Scammon Bay students gather at a home in the Native Village to learn how to comb fur from a musk ox hide using special combs and common forks. The fur can later be spun into yarn.
The East Anchorage High and Scammon Bay students gather at a home in the Native Village to learn how to comb fur from a musk ox hide using special combs and common forks. The fur can later be spun into yarn.
Erin Irwin/Education Week
Equity & Diversity Project On the Snowy Tundra, Alaska Students Bridge Differences and Eat Moose Snout
An Alaskan high school exchange program works to promote understanding between the state's urban centers and its remote Native Villages.
Victoria Petersen, July 19, 2019
11 min read
Equity & Diversity Interactive Alaska: A Brief History of the State and Its Schools
Alaskan schooling developed on many fronts. An illustrated timeline adds historical context for the growth of the state's education system.
July 19, 2019
1 min read
School & District Management Video ‘Just Like Them’: Urban and Rural Students Make Friends on the Alaska Frontier
An unusual exchange program in Alaska pairs students from urban high schools with sister schools in some of the most remote parts of the 49th state. In April, four Anchorage students and their teacher made the trip to a Native Village in Scammon Bay. See what they learned about subsistence living, the environment, Yup’ik culture, and making connections with peers from a different culture and geographic region. July 21, 2019.
Erin Irwin, July 19, 2019
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