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Feds won't sanction Alaska over teacher qualifications


June 24, 2006

Ketchikan, Alaska - Alaska will not face sanctions or have conditions placed on its federal grant that helps teachers become highly qualified, the U.S. Department of Education said this month.

Last month, federal education officials told Alaska and several other states that conditions might be placed on a federal grant if the states did not meet all the requirements of implementing the highly-qualified-teacher provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act.

According to the Alaska Department of Education, Alaska receives about $14 million a year in the Improving Teacher Quality State Grants, which it disburses to school districts statewide to help teachers demonstrate that they are highly qualified to teach their subjects.

In response to the federal concerns and with the assistance of school district staff, officials of the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development moved quickly to provide the U.S. Department of Education with data from the 2005-2006 school year about the number and percentage of classes taught by highly qualified teachers in Alaska's eight largest districts. The data included special education teachers of core academic subjects, as the federal agency had requested.

On June 16th, the U.S. Department of Education said it is satisfied with Alaska's preliminary data and will not impose sanctions.

According to an Alaska Department of Education's Information Officer Eric Fry, preliminary data from eight large school districts, representing 75 percent of classes in the state, show that the percentages of classes taught by highly qualified teachers range from 62.5 percent to 98.7 percent. Fry said the eight districts are Anchorage, Kenai, Mat-Su, Juneau, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Kodiak, and Sitka.

Fry told SitNews, "Ketchikan reported 97.24%." Regarding Ketchikan Fry added, "This is preliminary information, meaning that the state hasn't reviewed the data. That doesn't mean that we doubt it."

Fry said of the eight districts, "They are the districts that are not considered rural for purposes of the NCLB HQT [No Child Left Behind - Highly Qualified Teachers] exception to the usual deadline of 2005-2006. All other districts in Alaska have until the end of 2006-2007 to be highly qualified."

Most of the districts have improved their rates, sometimes dramatically, since data were last reported, said Henry Johnson, Assistant Secretary of Education, in a June 16th letter to Alaska Education Commissioner Roger Sampson.

Like all states, Alaska still must submit a revised plan by July 7, 2006 that details the steps that districts and the state will take to reach the goal of having all teachers highly qualified by the end of the 2006-2007 school year.


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Ketchikan, Alaska