House Education considers delaying standards

JUNEAU — The House Education Committee began hearing testimony on a resolution Wednesday to delay implementing new English language and mathematics standards for Alaska.

House Resolution 9, sponsored by Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, called for the delay because it may force districts to overhaul their existing curriculum.

“We visited different schools and their frustration was pretty high,” Wilson said. “They said too much was happening at once.”

Wilson said both the Legislature and local school districts need a cost analysis on implementing the new standards. She noted a delay would help school districts with the transition to the new standards. Wilson said requiring the districts to make the transition within a year was not fair.

The Alaska State Board of Education approved the new English language arts and mathematic standards this year. They are to go into effect 2015.

“Without the funding, this is another unfunded mandate we’re asking our districts to do,” said Chairwoman Lynn Gattis, R-Wasilla.

Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, felt a delay would be good for teachers involved.

“They need a reasonable time for in-service to do a good job,” said the Wrangell representative.

However, superintendents from Kodiak and North Slope school districts disagreed.

“If we move back now, it will be demoralizing to our teachers who have spent hours and days already to get ready,” said Peggy Cowan, superintendent for the North Slope School District.

Cowan said she is concerned about the costs to her district for implementing the standards, but her staff are already prepping for the new standards.

Stewart McDonald, superintendent for the Kodiak Island School District, did not wish to go backward. He said the committee should be patient once the new standards are implemented for there will be a natural dip in grades during the transition period.

“I think attaching performance too close to funding would be a mistake,” McDonald said.

Wilson said she had witnessed educators practicing different teaching styles at some districts for the new standards.

“We are teaching for the test,” Wilson said. “On everything we do, we train for a test.”

Wilson said under the news standards curriculums are to change every six years.

Rep. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, suggested the cost analysis be extended out to cover 10 years as well as an analysis of the entire impact the new standards brings into play.

I would like to know how much time will be taken for testing in classroom,” Reinbold said.

The resolution remains in committee.

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