Although approximately two-thirds of Alaska students did not “meet standards” according to a tough new grading scale, Alaska Education Commissioner Mike Hanley said the low marks show promise and were on par with his expectations.
“If they weren’t (low) I would question, ‘Did we really raise the bar?’” Hanley said.
During a press conference Monday, the Department of Education and Early Development released figures showing only 34.76 percent of Alaska students met standards in English language arts, and 31.17 percent met standards for math. The remaining third through 10th graders fell in a category that qualifies them as “partially” meeting standards.
Hanley delivered a statewide projection in August that only one-third of Alaska’s students would meet standards in math and English, then in October a district breakdown was delivered to superintendents across the state. Monday marked the first day exact percentages for each district and grade level were available to the public.
The first-year results from the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) assessment, adopted in 2012 and first administered in March, have created what Hanley calls a baseline from which future progress will be measured. He stressed that former state exam results are not comparable to the new, tougher exam calibrated to make sure Alaska students are college-ready and career-ready.
“I am confident that over time, we will see significant increases in the percentage of students meeting the standards, fewer students needing remedial courses in college and a stronger Alaskan workforce,” Hanley said.
In part, Hanley said the low scores are a reflection of the short time that passed from when the new standards were adopted to when the test was administered. Entire curriculums over several grade levels required readjusting; students were only exposed to the new standards for instruction for one or two years.
The Juneau School District as a whole displayed higher scores than the state average, but not all schools showed the same results.
Floyd Dryden Middle School had 33.73 percent of students meet standards, the lowest average in the district among traditional schools. Glacier Valley Elementary had the lowest math average for a student body meeting standards, 29.65 percent.
The highest marks among traditional schools went to Auke Bay Elementary, where 54.85 percent of students met standards in English language skills. At Gastineau Elementary School, 49.65 percent of students tested met standards for math skills.
The Juneau Community Charter School reported the highest results for English and math in the district, 57.81 percent and 54.69 percent, respectively. However, the school also works with the smallest student body, 64.
School districts will begin distributing student-level reports to parents later this month.
Although Hanley said the results show greater attention at certain levels and in certain school districts is needed, he’s hesitant to say the solution is more dollars for education.
“Dollars don’t equate to higher scores,” Hanley said, adding that areas lagging need greater support, which does not always translate to a monetary form.
A breakdown of AMP results by district, school and grade level is available at https://education.alaska.gov/TLS/Assessments/Results/results2015.html.
• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.