Aurora Borealis Charter School in Kenai received a national award last week only bestowed upon 254 other public schools across the country.
The approximately 180-student K-8 charter school was named a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.
Only one other school in the state received such recognition.
Aurora earned the award because its student achievement is in the top 10 percent of the state on state tests in the highest grade assessed at the school.
Additionally, the school has made adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind Act for the last three years, as measured by scores on state tests in language arts and math.
School Principal Larry Nauta, who's been at the school since its start 12 years ago, said he attributed the high rates of student success to several factors.
One of the biggest, he said, was the school's "spiral" approach to their curriculum.
He compared the way teachers at Aurora teach to the construction of a house, and said that everything is done incrementally.
Additionally teachers rely heavily upon results from standardized testing to assess their student's needs.
"Our staff really analyzes that to determine where we need to tweak within our programs," he said. "We're not quick to change programs, we're real quick to tweak on what we're doing."
Teachers aren't just watching the performance of their own class either, they're also watching that of the upcoming grade.
"There's a real built-in accountability," he said.
He noted as well that the school benefits from parent support.
As a charter school, parents have to choose to send their child to Aurora he explained.
"You still have excellent parents at other schools doing the same thing but in this kind of a setting that's a built-in," he said.
While Nauta was pleased with the recognition his school was getting, he was quick to say that it reflected well across the entire Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
"It's kind of a group thing. We have such good district support and there are certainly a lot of other good schools," he said. "I think we've got a district that's very well managed with a lot of people that are working very hard to educate children."
Dante Petri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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