Reformer ToolboxLogin

CancelLost your password?

Is Alaska reversing course on Common Core?

• Mike Thomas

As some states contemplate whether to stay with the Common Core State Standards, a state that initially rejected them seems headed in the other direction.

Alaska is joining the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of two state consortiums developing tests for the Common Core standards, as an advisory state. Alaska hasn’t officially adopted the standards. But its largest school district – Anchorage, with 37% of the states population of students – did so last year.

Anchorage’s actions came following reform conferences sponsored by Mayor Dan Sullivan, a stalwart conservative, in 2011 and 2012.

The conferences resulted in a report entitled “The Future of K–12 Education in Anchorage.’’ More than 100 civic and community leaders from a wide range of backgrounds participated in producing it.

It called for investing in teacher quality, setting high expectations for student success and expanding school choice.

As for Common Core, the report states: “Across the board participants agreed strongly that Anchorage needs to set the bar high. All kids need access to a rigorous, high-quality curriculum that prepares them for college or for a skilled, well-paying job. There was strong support for adopting the Common Core standards, a set of K–12 curriculum standards, internationally benchmarked, that have been adopted by 45 US states.’’

One participant noted: “Students are not tested with a national or international standardized test. As a parent, I feel duped.”

Said another, “[I was surprised] that Alaska ranks so poorly when compared to other states; Alaska sets our expectations low so we can communicate to parents we are performing at average or above average levels, when really we’re not.”

Seventy-four percent of participants agreed with adopting Common Core.

When you take ideology, politics and imaginary plots off the table, and simply have a conversation about improving education, Common Core becomes a very attractive option because its standards are superior to most existing state standards. It appears the good people of Anchorage figured this out, and now the rest of the state may be following.

About the author

Mike Thomas @MikeThomasTweet

Mike Thomas serves in the communications department, writing editorials and speeches. Prior to joining the Foundation, Mike worked for more than 30 years as a journalist with Florida Today and the Orlando Sentinel. He has written investigative projects, magazine feature stories, humor pieces, editorials and local columns. He won several state and national awards, and was named a finalist in the American Society of New Editors’ Distinguished Writing Award for Commentary/Column Writing in 2010. As a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, he wrote extensively about education reform, becoming one of its chief advocates in the Florida media. Mike graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in political science and journalism. His wife is a teacher and he has two children in public schools. Contact Mike at