Alaska’s Board of Education Changes School Rating for Small Districts

The state of Alaska will begin a new system for rating schools in the fall.  The new system is fairer and more realistic for alternative and small schools.

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development met earlier this month in Anchorage to alter the way schools are rated.  In 2013, the state adopted the Alaska School Performance Index, which rates schools on a 100 point scale.  The points are awarded based on test scores, improvement on tests, attendance, standardized tests and graduation rates.  The schools are then given ratings on a scale of one- to five- stars, five being the best.

Information officer for the Department of Education and Early Development Eric Fry says the new board decided it wasn’t fair for small or alternative schools to be judged by the old system.

“It’s just very tough for an alternative high school to do well on the system because they weren’t earning enough points, they weren’t getting credit for what they were doing which was taking some at risk kids and working with them and improving their proficiency and getting some of them to graduate,” Fry said. “It just wasn’t fair to make those schools look bad when they are doing what we all want to encourage.”

He says the system will not be letting these schools off the hook.

“We’ve changed the system so the schools will take three years in a row of how their graduating classes did so we have a somewhat larger number of kids to rate them on,” Fry said. “The idea was just to be fairer to these special circumstances.”

Fry says these rating systems were put into place to improve all schools, not just point out the shortfalls of small ones.

“When a school is one star it means they have to come up with an improvement plan,” Fry said. “Trying to target a plan that will target things that need improvement.  When you take a look at the test scores, the improvement of your kids and the graduation rates, there’s some room for improvement we are basically asking schools what do you need to improve.  So we aren’t imposing it in a top down way.”

The new school ratings will go into effect this fall but the results won’t be back until the end of the 2014/2015 school year.

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