The standards for educators adopted by the Alaska Board of Education in 1994 outline the skills and abilities that Alaskan teachers should possess for effective teaching. The standards are for all teachers, including beginning teachers, and include content knowledge, knowledge of how students learn, and knowledge of how to facilitate, monitor, and assess student learning. The goal is for teaching to be directly linked to student achievement in a results-based accountability system.
Another aspect of the state accountability system involves setting high standards for candidates seeking an initial teacher license in the state. The state added a requirement that all candidates must take Praxis I (Reading, 175; Writing, 174; and Math, 173) prior to receiving a license. Candidates must also complete an approved teacher education program and have earned a bachelor’s degree. Candidates must submit an institutional recommendation prior to being granted an initial license and must fulfill a recency requirement. Candidates must also complete a course in Alaska studies and multicultural or cross-cultural education. Candidates apply directly to the state for initial license ($165 application fee).
As part of the accountability system, the state has recently adopted NCATE standards for program review of all teacher education programs. Hence, all programs (public and private) are required to obtain NCATE accreditation. There are five higher-education institutions in the state with approved teacher education programs. A major redesign of the teacher education program offered at the state’s universities is now under way. A brief description of the redesign follows.
The University of Alaska offers three of the five teacher education programs in the state in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Southeast (in Juneau), respectively. In 1999, the president of the University of Alaska statewide-system designated teacher education as one of his top priorities for the university system, and this has resulted in increased funding for the schools of education. One result of the focus on the teacher education programs has been to strengthen the subject matter preparation of prospective teachers. Accordingly, both the president and the university regents have supported the development of postbaccalaureate teacher education programs. All students who apply for admission to postbaccalaureate programs must have completed a four-year content degree. All campuses currently have postbaccalaureate programs for elementary and secondary teacher education. Additionally, new undergraduate degree programs for future elementary teachers are being designed. The new four-year degrees in education include liberal studies components that provide future elementary teachers with a breadth of coursework across the disciplines.
The Alaska Partnership for Teacher Enhancement (APTE) was formed to guide and oversee redesign of the teacher education programs at the University