Teacher Education Consortium Meeting Brings State Education Leaders Together

Regent Jacobson and Chancellor pugh sit at a table for discussion.
Board of Regents Chair Pat Jacobson and UAS Chancellor Pugh joins others during roundtable discussions at the consortium.

by Chas St. George

The University of Alaska (UA) has been very busy building partnerships with Alaska’s schools. Last year, the UA Board of Regents met with Alaska’s State Board of Education and Early Development (EED). Esther Cox serves on the EED Board of Directors and recalled that it was the first time in a long time that the two boards had met. She also talked about the tone of the meeting.

“There was a lot of discussion about next steps, and accountabilities; that put into motion a number of agreed upon priorities,” said Cox

One of those priorities was generating greater awareness about the UA Teacher Education Consortium. The consortium brings together education leaders from across the state to focus on continuous improvements in UA’s teacher preparation programs MORE...

UA Turns To Wellness Programs to Counter Rising Healthcare Cost Trend

By Rachel Voris�

What’s The Issue?

No matter what kind of lifestyle you lead or what health choices you make, everyone seems to agree on one thing: something has to be done to control health care inflation and the trend of rising costs. For this reason, employers all over the nation are turning to workplace wellness programs as part of a solution to the problems at hand.

According to Director of Benefits at the Statewide Benefits Office Erika Van Flein, wellness programs are one of the few ways to take cost out of the plan, by reducing the need for healthcare services.

A wellness program would work to reduce the number of risk factors in the UA employee population. “Rates probably aren’t going down because of healthcare inflation, but we can work to reduce the trend. Cost trends are not something to be viewed on the short term. Instead, the goal is to make a difference over time, using wellness programs to slow down the rate of increase in costs,” Van Flein said. MORE...

University of Alaska Report Details Teacher Preparation, Retention and Recruitment Challenges

The University of Alaska recently presented the Alaska Legislature with a report highlighting the university’s efforts to help Alaska’s public schools attract, train and retain qualified teachers. The report titled “Alaska’s University for Alaska’s Schools 2013” is part of the University of Alaska’s commitment to engage Alaskans in a conversation about the challenges and the progress being made in Alaska’s schools.

The report was prepared by the Center for Alaska Education Policy Research (CAEPR) in conjunction with the University of Alaska's Deans of Education, and it examined a number of education trends, including:

  • High teacher turnover continues to exist in rural Alaskan communities, but there is clear evidence that teacher mentoring reduces turnover.
    • Alaska’s isolated, rural communities can be intimidating for educators and intensify challenges. Turnover in rural Alaska school districts is a persistent problem. Although there has been a light decline over the last decade, rural districts still average almost double the turnover of Alaska’s five largest, urban districts—about 19 percent compared to just under 10 percent for the urban districts.
  • New findings revealed why many University of Alaska teacher education graduates are not teaching immediately after graduation.
    • Data shows that University of Alaska teacher education graduates are not teaching immediately after graduation. The major reasons for this include too many graduates competing for limited positions in the state’s largest districts and too few graduates willing or able to relocate to rural and remote schools where the need is greatest. Presently Alaska school districts hire around 370 teachers each year from outside of Alaska. Districts hired about 210 new Alaskan teachers.
  • Positive gains in graduating more special education teachers were reported.
    • In addition to the 14 new teachers who obtained special education endorsements along with their initial certification, 66 existing teachers earned special education certificates, for a 2012 total of 80 new special education teachers. The number of teachers receiving special education endorsements at UA has grown 5‐fold between 2006 and 2012, from 16 to 80.

(See video 1 below)

  • Overall, the university is graduating more teachers today than it has in the last six years.
    • Initial teacher preparation programs at the University of Alaska produced 242 new teachers from June 2011‐May 2012 (Academic Year 2012); the average number of new teacher graduates over the last seven years is 214. These 242 teacher graduates included 155 elementary‐level teachers (including 17 specializing in early childhood), 77 secondary teachers and 10 certified for grades K‐12, in art, music or special education. Among the secondary teachers were 16 new math teachers and 12 new science teachers. Fourteen of the new teachers were certified in special education.

A number of teacher education trends in the state mirror national trends. The core issue is not a shortage of teachers nationwide. The problem is attracting trained teachers to districts with lower wages and often-difficult living conditions. The university is partnering with Alaska’s schools to help equalize conditions across districts and schools and entice qualified teachers to work in the places in the state where they are most needed.

Each UA campus runs initiatives aimed at increasing the number of Alaska Native teacher graduates and offers programs that prepare new and practicing teachers from urban Alaska and outside the state for working in rural, remote and indigenous communities. University of Alaska Statewide Office of K-12 Outreach is engaged in efforts to recruit high school students into becoming teacher candidates and provides professional development to current teachers and mentors for new teachers.

(See video 2 below)

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