ANSEP unveils plans to inspire, support more Alaskan K-12 science and math teachers


ANCHORAGE, ALASKA – Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP), with the University of Alaska, is seeking to remedy a number of education issues unique to rural Alaska communities and villages: high annual teacher turnover rates, a lack of ethnic diversity within the teaching ranks and a lack of educators specialized in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). This week ANSEP announced the launch of ANSEP STEM Teacher, which has a mission to help train, recruit and retain Alaskan students for careers in K-12 education across the state, especially rural areas and villages.  

“Our state is in the midst of an education crisis.  We intend to have an ANSEP STEM high school teacher in every village in Alaska in ten years,” said ANSEP Founder and Vice Provost Dr. Herb Ilisaurri Schroeder. “Young, eager and bright students are often denied inspiration, guidance and opportunities that lead to success, and ANSEP STEM Teacher is a new and vital part of our strategy to create meaningful, lasting change for current and future generations of Alaskan students.”

While increasing the number of Alaska-educated teachers with a STEM foundation, the program’s academic development, mentoring and recruiting efforts will also address the lack of minority, particularly Alaska Native, educators in the state. According to a recent study by the UAA Center for Education Policy Research, about 80 percent of rural students are Alaska Native, but fewer than 5 percent of licensed teachers working in the state are Alaska Native.

The report also found nearly 75 percent of Alaska's current teachers are from outside Alaska, and in some rural school districts teacher turnover rates are almost 50 percent annually. Recent industry research shows that high turnover rates can negatively impact student learning. In the nation’s five highest turnover districts, which have an average yearly turnover rate of 37.9 percent, less than half of students, an average of only 46.9 percent, score “proficient” in reading on state tests. By comparison, in the five districts with the lowest turnover, 85.8 percent of students score “proficient.”

According the National Center for Education Statistics, each year nearly 16 percent of teachers either move schools or leave the profession. However, high-poverty schools experience a teacher turnover rate of about 20 percent per calendar year nationally, roughly 50 percent higher than the rate in more affluent schools, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.

ANSEP, which already works within the K-12 system to inspire as well as socially and academically prepare students to attend the University of Alaska to earn STEM degrees, will use ANSEP STEM Teacher to incentivize current university education students to pursue teaching careers in Alaska communities. The program will also seek to motivate youth to consider teaching in Alaska a rewarding career path. Beginning in middle school, ANSEP will put Alaskan students on a track to return to rural communities as teachers and help perpetuate a cycle of success in the education system.

ANSEP, in conjunction with the deans of the Colleges of Education at University of Alaska Anchorage and Fairbanks, will create and fund positions to ensure that Alaska’s middle and high school as well as university students interested in teaching STEM receive the mentoring and support they need to earn necessary certifications. ANSEP STEM Teacher will also expand partnerships to promote professional development, mentoring and teaching career opportunities for the program’s students throughout their studies. 

To learn more about the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program, visit www.ansep.net.

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