The State of Alaska released the first set of new annual school ratings on Friday. The new reports, at the Alaska School Performance Index, are more specific than previous metrics, and State officials hope that they will help identify specific areas where schools need support. The new scoring system is part of Alaska’s waiver from some requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind program.
The Alaska School Performance Index weighs kindergarten through eighth grade according to three metrics. Academic achievement measured through standardized tests is 35% of the score, attendance is 25%, and improvement in academic scores over the previous year is 40%. Schools are rated on a score out of 100 points and a rating of one to five stars.
Among local elementary schools, Willow Elementary scored highest at 87.12 and received a four-star rating. Talkeetna and Trapper Creek Elementary Schools each scored just under 84 and received three-star ratings. The threshold for a four-star rating is a score of 85. Schools which receive scores of three stars or lower are required to submit plans to the state detailing how they plan to improve. The biggest area for improvement for Trapper Creek and Willow Elementary Schools is academic achievement, specifically in the Writing portion of the tests. Talkeetna Elementary earned high marks in all three academic achievement areas, but lost more points for attendance. All three elementaries received high scores on school progress.
High schools are measured using the academic, attendance, and progress metrics as well, but they are also evaluated on graduation rate and college and career readiness. College and career entrance exams help determine the scores for juniors and seniors, who are not tested under the normal academic achievement areas. Since Su-Valley includes grades seven through twelve, the scores for each section are weighted based on the proportion of students in 7th and 8th and 9th through 12th grades. Overall, Su-Valley received the highest score among area schools with an 89.24 and earned a four star rating. Reading was the strongest academic subject for students, while math had the lowest proficiency rate.
Su-Valley Principal Jason Mabry says that he thinks the new ratings are an improvement over the old Adequate Yearly Progress metric that is part of No Child Left Behind. Mabry says that the new scores give a better snapshot of a school, and are more specific, but that it’s still not a complete picture. He says that the academic assessments will be changing in 2015, and may be more rigorous. Mabry says that Su-Valley did well overall in this year’s assessment, because of “great kids, great community, and great teachers….”