Archives for category: Alaska

This is a heartening story in The Nation about the effective activism of Alaskans, who persuaded Senator Lisa Murkowski to oppose DeVos.

They bombarded her with calls, emails, etc.

The question for Senator Murkowski and Senator Collins–who say they will vote against DeVos on the Senate floor–is why they didn’t vote against her in committee. If her nomination had been voted down in committee, it would never have reached the Senate as a whole. She was endorsed by the HELP committee by vote of 12-11. If only one of them had voted no, DeVos would now be history.

But they cannily approved her in committee, then announced they would vote no when their vote no longer was pivotal.

If every Republican votes for DeVos except for these two, the Senate will have a tie, 50-50. Mike Pence will then cast the tiebreaker and DeVos will be confirmed.

DeVos will become the first candidate for a Cabinet position in history to be endorsed by a tie-breaking vote by the Vice President.

I am not ready to offer any awards to Murkowski or Collins. Either one of them could have put an end to her candidacy in committee, and they didn’t. These are not profiles in courage.


Mercedes Schneider tells the wonderful, wacky, mad story of the backhoe that cut through a fiber optic cable and canceled testing in the state of Alaska.

Remember those reliable tests that teachers gave? Pencils always came through. 

Politico reported this morning:

ALASKA HAD DOUBTS BEFORE TESTING SEASON BEGAN: The Alaska Department of Education was concerned about this year’s computer-based statewide student assessments even before last week’s Internet connectivity problems, Interim Commissioner Susan McCauley told Morning Education. “We had very shaky confidence going into this assessment, but from an administrative standpoint, assumed it would be fine,” McCauley said. Alaska had already decided in February that it would begin the search for a new testing vendor for next year and beyond, and this experience made clear their need for an institution that can provide “high-quality, useful data for Alaska parents and educators.” The state canceled testing entirely last week: http://politico.pro/201LR38.

– “While there’s no way we could have predicted this outcome,” McCauley added, “there should have been a plan in place” in the event of a situation like this. “We learned a lot to better prepare us for future assessments.” The University of Kansas’ Center for Education Testing and Evaluation noted that other students using its tests Monday were having no trouble: http://bit.ly/1S5n2Np.

– In addition to Internet woes, the testing system also failed on another front: Students who were disrupted were often taken back to the start of the assessment rather than where they left off. Because of this, the data surrounding test completion rates pose a problem as well. The state reports that just 8.2 percent of students completed the entire ELA portion of the Alaska Measures of Progress assessment, and just 5 percent completed the whole math portion. Only 4 percent of students were able to complete all stages of the Alaska Science Assessment exam. And those could be too high. Brian Laurent, the Department’s data management supervisor, notes that these figures must be taken with “extreme caution,” since there is no way to assess whether the percentages reflect actual completion of the exam or “‘completion’ as interpreted by the testing platform.” Whatever the real figures, they will surely fall below the required 95 percent of students who must be tested according to federal law. [http://politico.pro/1QFIhua]