We need to continue and enhance current ASD efforts to achieve the Destination 2020 goals. Emphasizing reading skills in beginning grades improves academic success. The Anchorage School District has one of the most diverse student populations in the country. We also know that students who have active parental involvement attend more and perform much better than students who do not. We should be constantly working on ways to remove barriers that may prevent parental involvement. Business and community involvement to encourage improved attendance should be sought. Parent mentoring and culturally relevant activities should also be considered.
Education begins at home. We must actively reach out to parents to communicate the opportunities and support available to them as they direct their children's education and promote the strong correlation between parent involvement and academic success. Additionally, research shows that the number of books in a home is strongly linked to a child's academic success across all demographics. That's why I started a program to get books into the hands of children in foster care. Opening up our libraries to pre-school families will also boost literacy and promote strong community ties.
I am familiar with achievement gaps from my service to the MECAC committee, and the Johnson O'Malley Program. Both have discussed how to address these gaps. The approach needs identify where the gap is starting, and begin a targeted effort. For example if we are seeing the gap starting with 3rd grade reading levels, then we make a targeted effort in 2nd grade toward those groups. The data collection on these issues is still in the baseline process, which is where we need to start to work toward effective change.
Cutting teaching and support staff positions will make the achievement gap even more difficult to close, but with proper investment in education, we can see it diminished:
* Hiring staff and teachers that reflect a local school's community;
* Teachers having more flexibility with course materials and more liberty on teaching subject matter;
* Community engagement in local schools and student activities;
* Community leaders and groups partnering with teachers and staff to support students;
* Specialized mentorship programs that work with students starting from grades 5 to 12 focusing on improving graduation rates and success after graduation.
Did not respond to questions.
ASD has a moral responsibility to ensure that it does not contribute to the gap by changed expectations or differing resources to disadvantaged groups. We must be certain we offer the best we can to all students, period. If we do that we will still see gaps, as some groups of our students show up with advantages that others don't have. These originate outside the school in the community, and ASD lacks the ability to impact some of them. That's a larger decision to be made by Anchorage and I think much work on that is being supported now. We need more.
Title I resources dedicated to narrowing the gap in low economic and ethnic groups of students serve to prove that throwing more money at the problem is not the solution. Rather than focusing on student demographics, the achievement gap should focus on the overall student body that is achieving nearly last in the nation. We have to stop taking students who have less and giving them less in school. What really matters is high standards, a challenging curriculum and good teachers. If we focus on those things, we will improve the achievement gap for the student body as a whole.
America stands foremost in the world as "The Melting Pot" for a good reason: We enjoy the greatest diversity of peoples, especially in Alaska. However achievement is not equal among all the people; it is not realistic to expect everyone to achieve everything in life. We all, of course, should strive to give the best possible education and tools to the children to potentially achieve what they want in real life. I believe that more multi-cultural education and social clubs that are more inclusive of everyone should be encouraged. Better vocational education system could be explored to lessen the economic gaps.
Tomorrow: Assembly candidates are asked about their qualifications.
Editor's Note: Candidate Kay Schuster's responses to this question and to a question about public schools and vouchers for private education were inadvertently switched.