State recognizes effort in improving testing performance

6 schools get pat on the back

Posted: Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Six schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District received a positive message recently from the state commisioner of education: Keep up the good work.

“It was really, really good news to receive that. I know how hard everyone has worked toward meeting AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress), and to get this validation made it all that much better,” said Soldotna Elementary Principal Carolyn Cannava.

Soldotna Elementary, along with Mountain View Elementary in Kenai and Kachemak Selo School in Fritz Creek, east of Homer, were recognized by the Department of Education and Early Development for showing at least a six percent increase in language arts and mathematics performance in the lowest or second-lowest performing subgroups of students — while maintaining the school’s overall performance — based on last spring’s round of testing.

Schools also had to meet AYP to earn recognition.

There are 31 subgroups designated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Sean Dusek, the district’s assessment administrator, said the biggest gains at Mountain View and Soldotna Elementary came in students with disabilities, while improvement at Kachemak Selo came among students with limited English.

Three other peninsula schools — Cooper Landing, Fireweed Academy charter school in Homer, and Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science, a charter school in Kenai, earned state recognition in two categories. All three schools performed in the top 10 percent of schools in the state on standardized testing and have made AYP for two consecutive years.

In addition, all three schools had at least a six percent increase in the number of students proficient in both language arts and mathematics.

“Those are definitely highlights of some schools that are doing some really good things,” Dusek said. “(The recognition) is a real nice pat on the back for these schools. We’d like to see even more schools make the kind of strides these guys are making.”

Dusek said there was no secret formula to the schools’ improvements on assessment tests.

“With all of these schools, they’ve made a big effort with specific subgroups. They’ve recognized weaknesses and improved them,” Dusek said. “It’s all about hard work and quality instruction.”

While there are valid concerns over the way AYP is measured, Dusek said school and district self-evaluation is one of the positive aspects of the legislation.

“It’s really made schools take a look at every student. There’s 31 different categories, and we have to be aware of them all. That’s been the intent of the law, instead of looking at the overall school score, looking at the various groups,” Dusek said.

Mick Wykis, administrator at Kaleidoscope, said the school’s curriculum plays a big role in students’ success.

“In terms of integrating art and science, everyone believes in that and follows that,” Wykis said. “I believe that integration is a successful format for students.”

Wykis said the results reflect the hard work done by students. The school pays attention to state standards and has taken care to align the curriculum with those standards.

“It’s also the amount of planning that goes in on the part of our staff to develop units that are engaging to students,” Wykis said.

Cannava credited her staff’s teamwork to the school’s improvement.

“Their dedication and teamwork makes a difference. It’s not this teacher’s child or that teacher’s child. We’re all working as a team,” she said. “It’s continuing this year, and even getting better. You can see it throughout the building ... the atmosphere is one of caring and learning.”

Will Morrow can be reached at

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