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Kenai Conversation: The Alaska Reads Act

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Jenny Neyman
Skyview Middle School.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed the Alaska Reads Act into law last June, a wide-ranging act that introduces new reading standards in Alaska public schools.

The goal of the act is to have every Alaskan student reading proficiently by the end of third grade. Schools will be required to offer interventions to meet this goal. The act also directs districts to adopt an evidence-based reading curriculum, and establishes a grant program for districts to create Pre-K programs.

Educators around the state have expressed agreement with the intentions of the act, but concerns about the burden it might place on teachers and schools. One of those concerns is the time and effort it will take teachers to get the certification required by the Reads Act. Another is the fact that the act would have students held back a year if they aren’t meeting reading goals by the end of third grade.

The rollout of the act also comes as districts across the state, including the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, are facing major deficits in the next fiscal year. The Base Student Allocation, or the amount of money the state provides per student, hasn’t been meaningfully increased since 2017, and rising inflation means districts are getting less money than ever. A couple of bills aimed at increasing that amount are currently making their way through the legislature.

In this hour, we talk to educators about the Reads Act — what impact it will have, how teachers are feeling about it, and what it will take to implement the act successfully. In the first half, we talk with Misty Nelson, a long-time educator, Anchorage school librarian and NEA-Alaska Reading Action Team member. In the second half, we talk to Tara Oberts, a Pre-K teacher at Redoubt Elementary in Soldotna.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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