New Teach, questions about State Standards.

This is the new version of the Alaska Teacher Placement (ATP) forum for teachers, education majors, and school administrators to discuss working and living in the state of Alaska. Those considering an Alaskan job, or considering a new Alaskan education job ask questions, and those with information and/or opinions provide answers. Although many users are teacher or principal candidates from the Lower 48, a large number of current and former school district HR and school administrators subscribe.

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New Teach, questions about State Standards.

Postby thekeez » Sun May 25, 2014 8:18 pm

Hey all! I just got a job with the NWABSD that I'm super excited and thankful to have! I've been preparing for the upcoming school year (14-15) and have a load of Social Studies classes I'm supposed to teach. I am originally from out of state, and this is my first year teaching in Alaska. I have a few questions about what to expect to create lesson plans around. The state I am from has very rigid state standards that you align your plans with. Does Alaska have the same sort of thing?
I have found the content standards (, but is this all of them? Are there any more detailed plans for things such as Geography, Gov't, etc? What would be the differences between say, High School Alaska History, and Middle School Social Studies (I'm assigned both)?

Another question concerns lesson planning as well... I have seen that some schools within different states have group lesson plan packets departments decide on,and others require teachers to make plans from scratch. Is there any specific favorite way in Alaska? Or touch-and-go depending upon your locale?

Any information on anything planning related would be awesome! I'm trying to prepare as much as I can before I get there :D

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Re: New Teach, questions about State Standards.

Postby Johncn » Mon May 26, 2014 9:27 am


Congrats on your new position, and welcome to the ATP Forum.

Although I don't know the details of how Northwest Arctic implements their curriculum, I can answer in a general sense.

If this is obvious, I'll apologize in advance, but it may help others. There are several kinds of "standards". You've got national standards that are sponsored by different curriculum groups in those fields. Here are some examples:

National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS):

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM): (

And, you have State Standards developed at various times by various stakeholder groups in that state. These are usually used to evaluate textbooks and curriculum materials to be used in that state. The standards in certain states who make large scale "adoptions" have tended to influence curriculum publishers quite heavily, as they want to SELL their materials. ;-)

In most states during the 1990s and early 2000s there were also "district standards". These were local standards often modeled after the content standards in various subjects, but were intended to "localize" education and make it relevant to the students in the school district. Sometimes, however, these were very different in some key regards, and how states allowed districts to use their standards - i.e. issue diplomas based on mastery of those standards versus state benchmarks and so on - varied widely. The district I work for, and NWABSD were both "standards-based" districts for a while, and got "Carnegie Waivers" from the state's Board of Education in order to issue diplomas based on their own local standard mastery.

This was further complicated by some states (including Alaska) introducing "exit exams" that with required pass scores showing competence in certain subjects.

Then, you have the Common Core Standards developed by National Governors Association, and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

The Common Core standards only exist for English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics at this point, but were an effort to align among and between states the main standards in the "core" subjects that determine academic success. These are also said to be necessary in order make national testing of skill levels in those area somewhat equal. The Common Core standards have been adopted by many states. Alaska was not one of the ones that adopted the Common Core, and it's a bit of a political thing here.

The companies that make the curriculum materials school districts also have influence with the testing companies and organizations that have tried to come up with national tests "aligned" to these standards. Basically, EVERY major publisher of textbooks claims to have "alignment" with the Common Core, but...well, it's not entirely clear how that is measured.

This page gives a bit of background of history regarding standards in Alaska, but the bottom line is that Alaska has had "weak" state standards, and allowed districts to focus on their own standards and the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam (HSGQE) as the basis for diplomas.

The accountability movement and statewide testing changes over the last two decades will make you dizzy, but local standards have been phased out as the "basis for graduation" in most Alaska districts. All districts are expected to address the state standards in their curriculum, and there are Carnegie credit requirements. But, ultimately the school districts decide who meets the requirements for a diploma, and they issue them. We are quite decentralized in Alaska, and view education as the primary responsibility of the local Board, not the state itself.

Standards in Alaska in core areas (Reading, Writing, Math) are better defined and more recently updated than the other subject areas, and are said to align "roughly" with the Common Core. Some districts use the terms interchangeably, and for all intents and purposes, that's accurate enough. They are really about the same. The high school exit exam in Alaska (HSGQE) was recently phased out (as in last month). In fact, in the last week or so, we were notified that students who didn't get regular diplomas because they didn't pass the test will be getting retroactive diplomas starting July 1, 2014. Statewide testing in all subjects and grades for accountability / NCLB purposes is changing next year to measure the Alaska Standards - Common Core flavored as they may or may not be. Districts are now scrambling to figure out how they will switch over all testing between now and then.

The Common Core standards reference the Social Studies, but the existing Alaska Standards you found online are the most recent "state" level standards. This does NOT mean that is what NWABSD uses, really, for their curriculum.

Frankly, in the context of this whirlwind of change, I would not worry too much about it The only meaningful answers about how you will know "what to teach" for each course will come from your new employer. You probably will not know very much about what you'll be teaching until you arrive. That's normal in any year. They will give you guidance on what their curriculum is for each subject you will teach, and they will provide training on how they expect you to do lesson plans. Then, when you actually get to your site, your principal will give you a schedule, and then clarify his or her expectations for how you design instruction, indicate which standards you are teaching for your lessons, measure progress, and report to parents.

The bottom line to all this is not to take any set of standards too seriously for now. You will have to learn from your district what they expect, and how the will have you plan and implement the curriculum they have purchased or designed. Hope this helps.


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