History of Education in the Chugach Region
“We need to get the kids to learn their cultural ways of living… if we don’t teach them now, it’s going to die…” – Simeon Kvasnikoff, Elder, Port Graham, 2004
The Chugach region contains a medley of cultures and traditions. People of Sugpiat, Yupik, Aleut, Athabascan, Yakutat, Tlingit, and Eyak heritage call the region’s temperate rainforests and ocean inlets home. For thousands of years, each generation has been educated by the generation before them – preserving and adding to a rich knowledge base on the land, its history, and people.
Although too little is known about the history of education in the Chugach region, it is well established that storytelling is central to the communication of knowledge in Alaska Native communities. According to Carol Barnhardt, Professor of Education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, “the large majority of knowledge about traditional Alaska Native education continues to come from elder’s memories.” Sally Ash, a resident of Nanwalek, remarked how she learned from her Elders and women in the village about how to be a mother and raise a child in Sugpiaq ways. While it is difficult to make generalizations, Barnhardt remarks that many Alaska Native groups share a set of values: prioritizing communal needs, sharing knowledge and materials, and respecting the interconnectedness of the natural world.
What the Data Says Today
Alaskan students and schools around the state grapple with high teacher turnover rates, a lack of resources, and low student test scores. In order to paint a picture of the challenges in our service area, we examined the percentage of students that scored “proficient or above” in the English and Language Arts (ELA) and Math on the 2018-19 PEAKS Exam.
* Math scores for Chenega are not available.
Test scores do not paint a complete picture, but they offer a glimpse into some of the challenges schools and students face. We can start working towards solutions by asking questions such as:
- How can we boost student test scores?
- How can we make sure that 100% of students are proficient in crucial subject areas?
Finding these answers will shape the future of our programs, but we need your input to make change happen.
Addressing the Achievement Gap
While students at large schools tend to score higher on standardized tests than students at small schools, Alaska Native and American Indian students at these large schools often score lower than their non-Native peers. Data on this topic is unavailable from Valdez and Seward high schools, but we can see this phenomenon occurring in many of the schools in the Chugachmiut service area.
We want to understand why this achievement gap exists and what we can do about it. Partnership is the cornerstone of this project. Together, we’d like to identify and address obstacles to student success, and outline solutions that will help Alaska Native and American Indian students reach their full potential.
* Scores for Alaska Native and American Indian students from Seward and Valdez High are not available.