CASE STUDY: Alaska Transition to Teaching Program, State of Alaska, Department of Education and Early Development
Program Evaluation / 2007-2012
The state of Alaska experiences a chronic shortage of teachers in its many remote rural school districts. These districts are often extremely isolated, hundreds of miles from population centers, and accessible only by small aircraft. Culture shock and difficult living conditions not only complicate filling teaching positions, but contribute to very high levels of teacher turn-over, which can exceed 25% annually in some districts.
In 2007, Sentient Research was approached to conduct a long-term evaluation of the newly created Alaska Transition to Teaching Program (AKT2), a state-wide alternative teacher certification program designed to place highly qualified teachers in these challenging rural Alaskan schools. As program evaluator, we worked closely with the Alaska Department of Education to gather data and prepare regular reports for the program funder, the US Department of Education. Moreover, we worked closely with the state of Alaska to create a system of continual program improvement aimed at producing an effective, efficient, and sustainable program that could endure after the 5-year grant period was over.
With this goal in mind, we created an array of instruments to measure data from the perspective of various program stakeholders, including AKT2 staff, program mentors, and school district stakeholders. Most importantly, we also created an online survey to collect data from each cohort of participating teachers longitudinally, and conducted a series of in-depth interviews with teachers to gain an understanding of the factors that contributed to their success and retention in the program. Using this data, we regularly provided concrete recommendations for refining the program. The input from our multiple evaluation efforts helped the AKT2 significantly increase its recruiting and retention of teachers, and ultimately resulted in a successful and sustainable program.