Six is good, but our schools need more help


Posted: Friday, December 08, 2006

There are 44 schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough district. On Wednesday, we reported that six of them recently received a positive message from the state commissioner of education that they are doing good work on Adequate Yearly Progress.

Soldotna Elementary, Mountain View Elementary in Kenai and Kachemak Selo School in Fritz Creek showed at least a 6 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.

Soldotna Elementary Principal Carolyn Cannava said that pat on the back was reassuring that the school’s hard work was validated.

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.

Cooper Landing, Homer charter school Fireweed Academy and Kenai charter school Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science 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 6 percent increase in the number of students proficient in both language arts and mathematics.

They deserve the recognition.

Dusek claims there was no secret formula to the improvements.

“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.”

There are 31 subgroups designated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Concerns still hang in the air regarding the No Child Left Behind Act program, especially in Alaska, where many challenges face schools that don’t exist in other parts of the United States — mainly geographic.

Of the 44 schools in the Kenai Peninsula district, four must be accessed by boat or plane.

The district also covers an area of 25,600 square miles — larger than the state of West Virginia. Every day nearly 3,000 students are transported 7,725 miles on school buses.

Making sure the nearly 9,500 students in the school system get the proper education and make Adequate Yearly Progress is a challenging responsibility.

Dusek said school and district self-evaluation is one of the positive aspects of the legislation.

But there’s still a lot of work to be done. Six schools making progress leave 38 striving for the same success.

Perhaps help will come in the borough’s decision to sue the state for more funding for education.

Tuesday night, the borough assembly approved filing a lawsuit against the state for its failure to equitably fund peninsula schools over the last decade, costing the district, by some estimates, as much as $100 million in lost school funds.

That certainly would aid schools in helping kids get the attention they need to succeed.

These federal mandated programs have put Alaska school districts in a tough spot, but the fact that positive changes are being made is a good sign — especially for the future of our children.

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