With more than 570,000 square miles, Alaska is our largest state but it boasts only 1.3 people per square mile. The state has almost 200,000 students enrolled in school from pre-K to postsecondary. Anchorage is the second biggest and one of the most diverse school districts in the Northwest region, with almost 49,000 students, who speak more than 90 languages. Almost a quarter (24 percent) of the state’s public school students are Alaska Native or American Indian. Another quarter constitutes other racial/ethnic minorities.
Helping education stakeholders define postsecondary success, particularly for Alaska Native students, is a focus of REL Northwest’s Alaska State Policy Research Alliance (ASPRA). The alliance is conducting research on students’ readiness for college, careers, and community life, as well as working to build policymakers’ capacity to use evidence in making decisions.
“Alaska does not have a P–16 council or any other body that brings together the key policymakers and stakeholders in the state to discuss education policy issues. ASPRA is the first such sustained initiative engaging policymakers, stakeholders, and researchers collaboratively working on education issues. It has helped foster trust and collaboration between groups that haven’t always had good relations in the state, and has created a new norm for who should be at the table in the discussions.”
—Dr. Diane Hirshberg, Director, Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage