Gov. Sarah Palin's has decided to opt out of an effort to write nationwide education standards in reading and math.
Forty-six states have signed on to the initiative to devise standards for reading and math testing that would let the performance of students in one state be compared with those in another.
The effort is in its development stages, with state and federal education officials, and others, trying to agree on what the core standards should be. Agreeing to adopt the standards is a step for later. Besides Alaska, the other states that have turned away from the effort are Missouri, South Carolina and Texas.
Anchorage School District Superintendent Carol Comeau, who is in charge of nearly half of Alaska's 120,000 public school students, said she was disappointed with the governor's decision. As a parent and educator, she said, she wants to know how Alaska's kids compare.
But other educators said Palin is right to be wary of outside standards being imported to Alaska.
Alaska doesn't compare to other states very well:
• Alaska's dropout rate, at 8 percent, was double the national average in the 2005-2006 school year, according to the latest figures available from the U.S. Department of Education.
• 38 percent of today's ninth-graders will have no high school diploma 10 years from now, according to the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education.
• Alaska ranks 50th, or last, in the number of ninth-graders who will likely have a bachelor's degree in 10 years, according to the commission.
I don't know what Alaska's standards are, but they don't appear to be working. Sarah Palin and the educators who are wary of importing outside standards may escape unfavourable comparisons, but what they're really doing is letting Alaska students down.
Sarah Palin said in a press release:
"Alaska's decision not to participate until after we monitor this is based on our desire to spend our time and public resources to improve instruction in the classroom and to form productive relationships between schools and the communities they serve.
"If this initiative produces useful results, Alaska will remain free to incorporate them in our own standards."
The state education commissioner, Larry LeDoux, said the resources wouldn't necessarily be used now but later when the standards were adopted, when changing curriculum in the state would cost millions of dollars.
"We just don't want to give up everything to the feds," LeDoux said.
The anti-fed brigade don't seem to understand that they're foregoing the opportunity to help set future standards by contributing to the discussion.
Under Sarah Palin, Alaska will continue to reject federal initiatives and Alaskans will pay the price.
The words Sarah Palin put out in early May, when she joined the Republican group National Council for a New America, sound very hollow.
Stapleton said Palin plans to be involved with the group "as long as everyone knows that Alaska always comes first."
What comes first is Sarah Palin's posturing. These days Alaska only comes into the picture to provide the governor with some soundbites...
RECALL Sarah Palin