Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Who can attend school?

Alaska state law guarantees a tuition-free education through twelfth grade to all children between the ages of 6 and 20. The law also requires children to attend school between the ages of 7 and 16, and may require attendance beginning at age 6 if a child has been enrolled in first grade at a public school for more than 60 days.

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How are Alaska's schools governed?

The nine-member State Board of Education & Early Development sets education policy with the following mission: "to ensure quality standards-based instruction to improve academic achievement for all students. "

The Board also sets state academic content and performance standards; establishes minimum high school graduation requirements; approves annual lists of school construction and major maintenance projects and publicizes and puts into action regulations governing programs that operate under Title 14 of the Alaska Statutes, including public schools, early childhood and child care programs, and state libraries and museums. State Board members are appointed by the governor, and the Board appoints an advisor representing the military community, a student advisor, and a student advisor-elect.

The Commissioner of Education & Early Development, appointed by the State Board with the governor's approval, heads the state Department of Education & Early Development, which exercises general supervision over the public schools in Alaska, provides research and consultative services to school districts, establishes standards and assessments, administers grants and endowments, and provides educational opportunities for students in special situations. Locally elected school boards head each of Alaska's 53 school districts, working within broad state guidelines to determine hiring procedures, curriculum, and policies for their districts.

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What are the Alaska schools like?

Alaska's approximately 500 public schools are organized within 53 school districts. These include 34 city and borough school districts and 19 Regional Educational Attendance Areas. REAAs serve students living in towns and villages in politically unorganized areas of rural Alaska.

Alaska schools vary greatly in size. High schools in Anchorage, the state's largest city, may serve more than 2,000 students. Schools in other urban areas such as Juneau, Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula, or the Matanuska-Susitna Valley may serve hundreds and are similar to schools in small cities in the rest of the United States.

Many schools in rural areas are small, some with 20 or fewer students at a variety of grade levels. They may be many miles from population centers and services, and accessible only by aircraft or boat. In remote villages, schools often serve as centers of community activity.

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What cultural groups do Alaska students represent?

Alaskan students come from a variety of cultures. In urban areas, you will find students from white, Native Alaskan, Asian, Hispanic, African-American, and dozens of other world cultures. In remote villages, students and residents may be predominantly Alaska Native--Yup'ik or Inupiaq Eskimo, Aleut, Athabaskan, Tlingit, Haida, or Tsimshian. Cultural values and traditions are an important part of school programs. The State Board of Education & Early Development has adopted Cultural Standards for Students to help assure that young Alaskans are aware of and sensitive to their physical and cultural environments.

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Do Alaska schools use up-to-date technology?

Alaska has long been on the cutting edge of using computers and distance education to expand opportunities for students to learn. Virtually all schools teach computer technology, and many students participate in distance education and classroom activities on worldwide computer networks. Up-to-date technology also expands training opportunities and information exchange among educators and school administrators.

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Does Alaska have a school reform initiative?

Alaska's major school reform initiative began in 1991. It's aim is for all students to meet state academic standards. Its foundation is high student academic standards and assessments; quality teachers and administrators; and high quality schools. The federal No Child Left Behind Act has accelerated Alaska's standards-based reform effort, which promises that all students will meet state academic standards by the 2013-2014 school year.

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What educational standards have been set in Alaska?

Beginning in 1993, Alaskans came together to create content standards – broad statements of what our students should know and be able to do – in ten core subject areas: English/language arts, mathematics, science, geography, government and citizenship, history, skills for a healthy life, the arts, world languages, and technology.

Alaskans eventually created content standards for employability and library information/literacy; performance standards – more detailed than content standards – in reading, writing, and mathematics; and cultural standards.

To fulfill the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Alaska expanded its performance standards in reading, writing and mathematics for grades 3 through 10, revised its science content standards, and wrote science performance standards. In addition, to meet a state requirement, the department created standards for Alaska history.

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What is required to graduate from high school in Alaska?

To receive a high school diploma, Alaska students must earn at least 21 credits, and some school districts require more. The State Board of Education & Early Development stipulates that students must earn four credits in language arts, three in social studies (including one-half credit in Alaska history), two each in math and science, one in health/physical education. The requirement for Alaska history can be met by demonstrating mastery of the state standards for the subject.

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What other tests do Alaska students take?

Alaska has established standards-based assessments for students in grades 3 through 10 in reading, writing and mathematics. These assessments meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. They are used to inform parents and students of individual student progress, as well as to determine whether schools and school districts are making adequate progress toward academic proficiency.

In addition, Alaska assesses students in grades 4, 8 and 10 in science. The science standards-based assessments are not part of the school and district accountability requirements of No Child Left Behind.

The Alaska kindergarten/first grade development profile is administered to kindergartners and to those first-graders who are entering the public schools for the first time.

Students in grades K through 12 who are learning English take the English Language Proficiency Assessment.

Students in grades 5 and 7 take the Terra Nova, a norm-referenced assessment that measures how students compare with students nationally in reading, language arts and mathematics.

Alaska students in grade 11 take the WorkKeys(r), a work ready/college ready transitional skills assessment.

The Alaska High School Graduation Qualifying Examination assesses students in reading, writing and mathematics. Students must pass all three subtests to be eligible for a high school diploma. Students first take the tests in spring of sophomore year, and can retake them up to twice a year, even after completing high school.

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How can I find out how good my child's school is?

Visit the Report Card to the Public link on this website, select your child's school or the school you are interested in, and you will find information about attendance, test scores, graduation rates, school/business partnerships, and more. You can also contact your school directly to find out more information about school.

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What are the alternatives to public schools?

Alaska students can enroll in publicly funded correspondence schools or a charter school through a local school district. Local school districts may also offer other alternative programs. Students also may make application to apply to Mt. Edgecumbe High School Boarding School. More information is available about Mt. Edgecumbe at https://sites.google.com/a/mehs.us/home/, or by calling (907) 966-3200.

Charter Schools can operate in Alaska under the jurisdiction of local school districts. Charter schools are exempt from certain state laws and policies in order to allow innovation to take place; their charters must be approved by both local school boards and the State Board of Education & Early Development.

About 5,000 students attend private or denominational schools in Alaska.

It also possible for Alaskans 16 years and older to earn a General Educational Development (GED), by passing the high school equivalency test administered through the Adult Basic Education Program in the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

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How can we start a charter school in our community?

Anyone wishing to start a Charter School can draft a charter and apply to the appropriate local school district to serve students within a particular age group or grade level, or to serve students they believe will benefit from a particular teaching method or curriculum. Charter school students must fulfill standardized achievement test requirements, and personnel are generally subject to the school district?s labor agreements.

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What are the requirements for parents who wish to home school their children?

Children schooled at home by their parents or guardians are exempt from the Compulsory School Attendance Law. Parents are not required to register with the state or their local school district, and no testing or other requirements are placed on home schools not funded with public dollars.

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Are Alaska teachers certified?

Teachers and administrators must be certified to be employed in Alaska's public schools. Certification requirements include: graduation from an accredited four-year institution with an approved teacher education program; qualifying scores on the Praxis I tests in reading, writing, and mathematics; completion of six semester credits within the past five years; completion of courses in Alaska studies and multicultural education or cross-cultural communication; and a criminal background check. For full information, visit the Teacher Certification page on this website.

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What's different about teaching in rural Alaska?

A study of successful rural teachers in Alaska identified the following characteristics:

  • Skills to assist all students in meeting high standards - Effective rural teachers use a variety of techniques to assure that no child is left behind.
  • Intellectual breadth and curiosity - Most village teachers must teach subjects outside their fields.
  • Multiple talents and practical skills - Rural communities need teachers who can do more than teach school but can also lead or coordinate extracurricular activities and enrich the school environment.
  • Political skills - In small communities, teachers must be astute politicians and be wary of community politics.
  • Interpersonal savvy - In Alaska Native villages, teachers must decipher the unwritten rules of cross-cultural communication. They will be judged on their personal as well as professional qualities.
  • High academic expectations and varied teaching strategies - Effective rural teachers have a strong academic orientation and do not use cultural differences to excuse low achievement. They also have many teaching strategies to use in different situations.
  • Entrepreneurial spirit - Effective village teachers form educational partnerships with the community, and design education that fits particular places.

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What is the best way to find a teaching job in Alaska?

Each of the state's 53 school districts hires its own teachers, though all teachers are required to have valid Alaska Teaching Certificates. For information about certification visit the Teacher Certification page on this website. You can also search for a job, register for a job, or post a job vacancy notice at the Alaska Education Employment Board website at www.Alaskateacher.org. The site allows teachers to locate job openings by region or school district and to post their individual employment profiles online. School districts can review teachers' profiles and post position openings as well. You can also search for jobs by contacting Alaska Teacher Placement at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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What is the average teacher salary in Alaska?

In 2013-2014, the average teacher salary in Alaska was about $65,891.49. The Statistics and Reports section on this website list additional information about teachers in Alaska.

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How can I nominate someone for Alaska Teacher of the Year or other recognition programs?

Application guidelines, forms, and contacts can be found in Recognition Programs under the Section drop-down menu on the Forms & Grants page of this website.

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I have lost my high school transcripts. How can I obtain another copy?

Each school district maintains its own records so you will have to contact your local school to inquire about high school transcripts. You will find a complete list of Alaska schools and school districts, their addresses, contact names, telephone numbers, and e-mail and website addresses (for those school districts that have them) on the Rolodex page of this website.

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How can I get a copy of my GED certificate?

Contact the Adult Basic Education office at the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development via e-mail from the website, by telephone at (907) 465-8714, or by fax at (907) 465-8753.

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How can I obtain mailing labels for all the schools in Alaska?

You can download Comma Delimited Text Files of private schools, public schools (broken out by grade levels), or all public schools. These can be used to create data bases and mailing labels.

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We would like to relocate to Alaska. Where can we find information about living conditions, employment, and schools?

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Develdopment's Relocation page suggests links for information about housing, cost of living, employment, travel, and other topics. You can learn about specific communities from the Community Profiles Online page on the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development website.

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Where can I find information for my school report about Alaska?

There is a wealth of information at the State of Alaska Kid's site, on the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development Community Information site, and under FAQs in the Alaska State Library database.

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