Murkowski Defends Opportunities for Aspiring Native Teachers

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has introduced a Senate Resolution calling on the Council for the Accreditation of Education Programs (CAEP) to amend a recently adopted standard for accrediting teacher education programs that will have a disproportionately negative impact on Native Americans and Alaska Natives who aspire to become teachers.

The Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) is the sole accrediting body for teacher preparation programs across the nation. CAEP adopted a number of changes to their accreditation standards in 2013 to be phased in over the next several years. Standard 3.2 will restrict colleges’ ability to enroll aspiring teachers by requiring that each cohort of students have an average high school GPA of 3.0 and, by 2020, score in the top 33 percent on the SAT, ACT, or GRE test.

Data shows that Standard 3.2 will have a disproportionate effect on students who have inadequate access to exam preparation and are less like to take these exams.  One such barrier—not having access to the full range of math and science courses in high school—is a particular problem for Native American and Alaska Native students. As a result, Standard 3.2 will prevent teacher preparation programs from enrolling promising young people or helping them to become successful teachers. 

“We need well-trained, culturally competent, intelligent, effective teachers in every classroom in America, but it is inappropriate to use these tests to predict whether someone will become an excellent teacher,” said Murkowski. “This standard, as written, will have a negative impact on young Native Americans and Alaska Natives who want to become teachers in their own communities where they are so desperately needed.”

This resolution introduced by Senator Murkowski calls upon the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation to:

  • Consult with tribes and Native organizations;
  • Jointly develop changes to the accreditations standards of the CAEP to ensure that Alaska Native and American Indian teacher candidates will not be negatively impacted by the standards; and
  • Adopt changes to the accreditation standards of the Council expeditiously.

This resolution is supported by the University of Alaska system, Alaska Federation of Natives, National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Education Association, and the Tanana Chiefs Council.

“This standard will have a devastating impact and create an unfair barrier for our Alaska Native students who are aspiring to become educators in our rural communities. This new rule not only affects our rural Alaska Native students, but other minorities around the nation who don’t have access to quality college preparation courses,” said Julie Kitka, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives.

The Senate Resolution is co-sponsored by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK). Congressman Don Young (R-AK) has introduced a similar proposal in the House of Representatives.

Murkowski is Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee.