case study

Alaska Transition to Teaching Program


We partnered with the State of Alaska to evaluate and improve efforts to address teacher shortages in rural schools


Client: State of Alaska, Department of Education and Early Development

The Issue

Alaska experiences a chronic shortage of teachers in its many remote, rural school districts.

Culture shock and challenging living conditions complicate filling teaching positions and contribute to teacher turn-over levels that can exceed 25% annually.

The Outcomes

We conducted a five-year evaluation of a new program placing qualified teachers in rural Alaskan schools.

Our evaluation and recommendations helped to significantly increase recruitment and retention of teachers.

In 2007, Sentient Research began a five-year 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 rural Alaskan schools.

As the program evaluator, we traveled to Alaska 12 times over 5 years. Through visits and regular communication via telephone and email, we worked closely with the Alaska Department of Education to gather data and prepare regular reports with performance indicators for the program funder, the U.S. 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 five-year grant period was over.

“Deepening my relationships with students and members of the community has been the most rewarding aspect of my second year teaching. It takes a long time to really get to know people and feel accepted out here.” – AKT2 Teacher, 2009-2010 cohort

Evaluation and Continual Program Improvement

We began by creating an array of instruments to gather qualitative and quantitative data from various program stakeholders, including AKT2 staff, program mentors, and rural school district stakeholders. We created an online survey to collect data from each cohort of participating teachers longitudinally. We also  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 or reasons for leaving the program. We analyzed this data each year, and provided actionable recommendations for refining the AKT2. The results of our mixed-methods evaluation efforts helped the AKT2 significantly increase its recruitment and retention of teachers, and ultimately resulted in a successful and sustainable program.