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‘We’re in a crisis’: High teacher turnover, huge numbers of UAA education students gone

The Putnam Museum is getting ready to kick off their new round of informal education events for...
The Putnam Museum is getting ready to kick off their new round of informal education events for kids! (Photo Download: MGN Credit Photo: Pixabay)(KWQC)
Published: Sep. 19, 2019 at 6:30 PM AKDT
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On Thursday, the state education board received a stark assessment of teacher turnover.

Of the state’s 54 school districts, 25 have had their current superintendents in place for less than two years. Thirteen superintendents started at the beginning of the school year.

“We are experiencing a turnover at the teacher, principal and superintendent level at rates we’ve never seen in Alaska before,” said Dr. Lisa Skiles Parady, the executive director of Alaska Council of Administrators.

The issue for Alaska mirrors a national trend of teachers leaving the profession and not being replaced. Education Commissioner Dr. Michael Johnson says the problem in Alaska is more pronounced.

“My focus as commissioner is making effective schools because folks want to work in effective schools,” he said.

On Oct. 15, the state education department will have the latest data on how many teachers are leaving Alaska.

In June,

said the employee loss through June 13 is the highest out of all the years the district has tracked the data.

Parady says the problem is complex but Alaska isn’t paying competitive salaries to teachers or offering competitive retirement benefits. The need for more specialized training, such as for special education teachers, also makes recruitment more problematic.

Alternative certification pathways are being considered by the board but only if they don't sacrifice teacher quality.

The loss of accreditation for the University of Alaska Anchorage education program's initial licensure programs also poses a long-term problem.

Dr. Steve Atwater, the executive dean of the Alaska College of Education, presented data to the education board that showed 474 students studying at UAA last fall who had declared an education major. Since then, 150 of those students have left UAA altogether.

Many may have left the major for reasons unrelated to the revocation of the program’s accreditation but the numbers are unprecedented.

“That rate of attrition is extremely high, it’s unheard of,” Atwater said, before saying that the university is working to care for the education students who are studying at university’s other campuses.

“We’re confident we can get back to where we need to be.”

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