Arctic students fall short of test standards
The vast majority of students in the Northwest Arctic and North Slope did not meet statewide standards in English and mathematics this year.
The standards are measured by the Performance Evaluation for Alaska's Schools (PEAKS) end-of-year exams taken by public school students from third through 10th grades around Alaska.
About 87 percent of North Slope Borough students and about 90 percent of students from the Northwest Arctic Borough failed to meet grade-level academic standards in both subjects across all grades, according to data on the 2017 tests provided by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.
In the Northwest, which had the worse scores of the two boroughs, 89.23 percent of students, or 1,003 children, across all grades failed to meet English Language Arts standards. A total of 10.77 percent, or only 121 students total, were considered proficient.
For Northwest math standards, 92.15 percent, or 1,033 students, did not meet the standards, while only 7.85 percent, or a mere 88 students across the district, were proficient.
On the Slope, 87.17 percent of students, or 931 children, across all grades were below proficient in English. Only 12.83 percent, or 137 students, met grade-level expectations.
For math on the Slope, 137 students also met expectations in that subject area, for a total of 12.92 percent of those who took the tests. A total of 923 students were considered not proficient, or about 87.08 percent of the total.
That's significantly lower than the statewide numbers for the same exams, though neither are particularly positive.
Across the state, more than half of all students did not meet expectations, but the percentages who did were higher than they were regionally. A total of 38.4 percent, or 26,991 students, were proficient in English, while 61.6 percent, or 43,306 students, were not. Math scored even lower, with only a third of students statewide, 31.83 percent, coming out above, while 68.17 percent fell below.
The PEAKS standardized tests were new this year, following academic standards the state adopted about five years ago.
Some school administrators have expressed concerns about the number of changes to standardized testing over the last several years in the state, while others have reacted favorably to what may be considered more rigorous standards to which students are now being held.
Given that this is the first year for which Alaska has PEAKS test data, no trends for these tests in particular can be established yet.
Standardized testing, in general, has come under fire across the country for not taking students' individual strengths into consideration, especially when they may be bilingual or learners of English. However, supporters have said there should be some kind of gauge for general proficiency in the two most prolific required subjects across all grades.
The Sounder will continue to bring you reporting about the PEAKS test and what the scores may mean for the two districts and the students and communities they serve.
Shady Grove Oliver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.