The hot news at the school board meeting in Homer on Monday was the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District made AYP adequate yearly progress, the measuring stick of No Child Left Behind, a federally mandated program.
Reaching that mark was no small step, according to Sean Dusek, the district's secondary education director.
"We jumped 3 percent in language arts as a district, up to 87 percent proficient," Dusek said of results officially released by the state Wednesday. "We jumped 6 percent in math, up to 79 percent proficient."
The biggest leap, of the 31 AYP target areas measured, was students with disabilities. Not only was there a 5 percent increase in language arts, but also a 12 percent increase in math. Those improvements allowed the district to meet AYP through "safe harbor," which looks for improvement based on the previous year's scores.
"The 12 percent gain is huge," Dusek said. "Over the last three years, we had pretty much flat-lined in our improvement in math."
The reason for that improvement was a focus on math that included implementing a new curriculum.
"Our math teachers really got after it, and the administrators are staying on top of it. That's what I attribute it to," Dusek said.
Failing to make AYP targets in previous years has placed the district in "improvement" status.
A plan to identify areas needing improvement and strategies for making those improvements was reviewed by the board Monday.
Meeting AYP two years in a row will remove KPBSD from the "improvement" category.
"But I think you'll see us follow through (with the improvement plan) because it has been effective, it has focused us," Dusek said, adding that increased proficiencies mean increased pride for district students.
"The difference is that ... they'll have something to be proud about," he said. "This is a significant accomplishment. ... After all the information comes out and we start comparing districts of our size around the country and see how difficult it is to make AYP, it really is kudos to our kids, our parents, our teachers. They put in a lot of hard work and became very focused on what to do in core academic areas."
In August, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development released AYP results for schools across the state. Of KPBSD's 44 sites, 39, or 88.6 percent met AYP, while 65.5 percent of schools statewide made AYP.
Lindsay Olsen, a senior at Homer High School, took advantage of the public comment period during Monday's meeting to express concerns about the KPBSD High School Guideline rule concerning a student's proximity to alcohol, illegal drugs or paraphernalia. The rule pertains to participants in co-curricular activities and defines "proximity" as "being in the same vehicle, house, location, party, etc., where you know alcohol/drugs are in illegal possession by minors or you willingly remain in a location where you are aware alcohol/drugs are being illegally consumed."
Olsen requested the board consider an exemption for students who find themselves designated drivers for classmates.
"I don't think people realize the lack of designated drivers," said Olsen, who has filled that role for friends.
As a participant in volleyball, basketball, softball and a member of the drama, debate and forensics club, Olsen is concerned that being a designated driver could result in being suspended from an activity for the season or 30 consecutive days, whichever is longer.
"I know a lot of students that couldn't show up that feel the same way," she said. "I'm encouraging them to write letters."
Glen Szymoniak, assistant superintendent, said ASAA, Alaska School Activities Association, is in the process of drafting language on the subject that would apply statewide.
"I believe it's a real reasonable thing for them to be looking at," Szymoniak said.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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