Public Comment: 2nd Draft Alaska ESSA Plan

The Alaska Department of Education & Early Development (DEED) has released its 2nd draft of the Alaska ESSA plan. I encourage you to take the time to read the draft and offer comments.

Thanks to the more than 200 comments from NEA-Alaska members we submitted to DEED in the spring, and after several conversations with Commissioner Michael Johnson and his team, many of the concerns we had with the state’s first draft ESSA plan have been addressed. The definition for ineffective teacher has been narrowed, and is no longer based on the number of days a teacher misses during the school year.

In other good news, the new draft plan includes provisions for mentoring and teacher leadership. While we would have liked to see an even wider selection of school quality and student success indicators in the plan, we also understand DEED’s choice of three success indicators, and think this draft plan is a step in the right direction. In a state as rich and diverse as ours, each school and district must come up with solutions that work for their communities, and should receive the support from the state they need to achieve those student learning goals. 

As educators, we remain concerned that test scores are overemphasized even in this latest draft ESSA plan. An overreliance on test scores—especially if the tests themselves are weak—drives schools to limit curricular offerings and put time and resources into test prep instead of real learning opportunities for students. A way to improve the current draft plan would be to consider the use of teacher-created assessments that emphasize performance. This opportunity, and others, could emerge from the Alaska Education Challenge, Commissioner Johnson’s project to bring the Alaska education community together to generate unique ideas that work for Alaska best students.

Thank you for taking time out of your summer break to review state education policy—our students are counting on us to get ESSA right. I encourage you to take a few minutes and weigh-in with your thoughts on the latest draft ESSA plan. Comments are due by July 31. 

–Tim Parker, NEA-Alaska President