"An Act relating to selection of textbooks and curriculum materials by a public school district or regional attendance area and annulling a regulation relating to statewide correspondence study programs. "
"By giving credit and grades for aligned achievement, a correspondence program is NOT "advocating" anything but academic achievement."
- Sen. Dyson
The innovation and success of Alaskans in dealing with the challenges of providing quality government services in our great and wonderful frontier is something we take pride in. One of our biggest challenges and most rewarding successes is our "system of public schools open to all children of the State" 1.
More specifically, a number of school districts have developed distance learning programs using computers, internet access, home multifunction office machines, subscription to premium online educational services, certified teacher support, academic accountability standards, and superb parent <> public school collaboration. These programs serve approximately 10,000 students who are performing well on our standardized tests. The parents of these children are supportive and protective of their own children and the public school support services that have been made available to them. Public school district correspondence programs represent the kind of innovation that makes Alaska a place we can be proud of.
Two years ago a process was initiated by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (EED) to establish standardized regulations and spending guidelines for statewide correspondence programs as a reaction to concerns over potential and alleged abuses. In 2004 the regulations were established as another example of cooperation between parents, school districts and the department.
Several statewide correspondence program were found to be deficient on several items based on an interpretation of AS 14.03.090 that is challenged by SB 167. Essentially, the EED interpretation of this statute seems to be that a school district cannot give student credit or grades for academic achievement acquired using curriculum materials that advocate partisan, sectarian or denominational doctrines--- even though the material is clearly purchased with personal family money and used by the parent to teach their children reading, writing, and mathematics. This interpretation seems to be a clear challenge to what is normal operating procedure in the United States and a stretch of legislative intent.
AS 14.03.090 prohibits public schools (not curriculum materials) from advocating "partisan, sectarian, or denominational doctrines ..." SB 167 simply clarifies that the legislature does not require parents to censor curriculum they purchase with their own money and that even if they choose to advocate religion to their own children using these materials, they can get public school credit for the academic achievement that aligns with state performance standards. By giving credit and grades for aligned achievement, a correspondence program is NOT "advocating" anything but academic achievement. A professional teacher is trained to give a reading, writing, or mathematics grade or credit without advocating the perspective advocated in the curriculum material or they wouldn't be able to teach things like literature and critical thinking skills.