University of Alaska wants to produce more teachers to address turnover in public schools

JUNEAU - The University of Alaska wants to address public school teacher turnover with more locally educated educators.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen has set a goal for 90 percent of all new teacher hires to have graduated from the university by 2025, the Juneau Empire reported. The current rate is 43 percent.

“The Alaska-prepared teachers just stay longer,” said Steve Atwater, dean of the Alaska College of Education. “As you put more Alaskans into the classrooms (the number of vacancies each year) will go down.”

The university will have to increase their numbers from around 250 education graduates each year to about 400 to 500, he said.

People are not as willing to come to Alaska as they used to be, Atwater said. Nearly two-thirds of all teacher and administrative school positions are hired from out of state each year, according to university data. Many new graduates stay a year or two and return to the Lower 48.

"Between 2004 and 2014, district-level teacher turnover in rural Alaska averaged 20 percent per year, and about a dozen districts experienced annual turnover rates higher than 30 percent," said Dayna Jean DeFeo, a senior research associate for the Center for Alaska Education Policy Research in a report. The national rate is 8 percent.

Johnson's goal of 90 percent UA hires is part of an initiative called "Grow your own" and used by teacher recruitment programs across the country.


The university is focusing on recruitment and retention, especially among Alaska Natives, and taking a multifaceted approach.

Besides including traditional recruiting, the university is focused on public awareness and outreach, a statewide mentoring program to support teachers who are already working in Alaska and a K-12 outreach program to encourage young students to enter the profession.

The university is also reorganizing the structure of education programs in the university and using a scholarship program to help recruit, educate and retain Alaska Native teachers.