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Arctic schools fared very poorly on statewide tests in 2017

September 15th, 2017 | Shady Grove Oliver Print this article   Email this article  

More than half of all students in Alaska did not meet statewide standards in math and English on this year's standardized testing. The Arctic region fared much worse than the state as a whole, with 87 percent of North Slope Borough students and 90 percent of Northwest Arctic Borough students falling below proficiency.

As the Sounder reported last week, 2017 saw a brand-new test, called PEAKS, for Performance Evaluation for Alaska's Schools.

"PEAKS is a thin layer end-of-year assessment that provides an overall picture of an individual student's performance on the grade-level standards. It provides relative information about how an individual student performed on groups of skills and abilities measured by the reporting categories," according to the answer portion on the PEAKS webpage's frequently asked questions section.

As with other standardized tests, PEAKS has had its usefulness questioned, especially when it comes to measuring the performance of students who are either bilingual or non-native speakers of English. However, some advocates of the test say it's important to have some kind of educational baseline from which to measure student progress.

While the vast majority of students across the Arctic did not perform well on the PEAKS test in 2017, it's clear test scores tended to be worse in outlying villages, rather than in hub communities.

For example, about 76 percent of Barrow High School students were below proficient in English, or about 80 students total. Only about 24 percent, or 25 students at the school, met standards. About 82 percent of students were below proficient in math, while a mere 19 students met standards.

At Eben Hopson Middle School, about 79 percent of students failed to meet English standards, with only 25 students meeting proficiency. Approximately 87 percent did poorly in math.

For Ipalook Elementary, the numbers are about the same. About 87 percent of students across all grades fell behind in English, along with about 74 percent in math.

No numbers were given for the Kiita Learning Community to protect the anonymity of the students, as any statistics would have made clear which students performed above or below standards.

For the sake of anonymity, no specific numbers were given for a few of the village schools either, though ballpark percentages were laid out.

For example, at the Meade River School, 90 percent or more students fell below standards in both English and math, while 10 percent or fewer were proficient.

At the Nuiqsut Trapper School, 95 percent or more students failed to meet standards in both subjects.

At the Kali School, 95 percent or more students did not meet proficiency levels in math. Meanwhile, 54 students failed English standards and only six students met them.

At the Nunamiut School, only five students were judged proficient in English with 39 not. Only three students met math standards, while 41 did not.

Finally, at the Tikigaq School, only nine students were proficient in English, compared to 126 who were not. Only three students were proficient in math, while 131 were not.

Numbers were slightly lower across the board in the Northwest Arctic Borough School District.

At June Nelson Elementary, 80 percent of students, or 130 students, fell below proficiency in English, while only 20 percent met standards, or 33 students total. In math, 80 percent fell behind, while only 20 percent, or 32 students, met statewide standards.

At Kotzebue Middle/High School about 77 percent fell below in English, while only 52 students in the whole school met proficiency. About 82 percent failed to meet math standards, with only 41 students at grade level.

At the Ambler School, 95 percent or more students failed to meet grade level expectations in both math and English.

The numbers were the same for the Selawik Davis-Ramoth School, the McQueen School and the Shungnak School, where 5 percent or fewer students met standards.

At the Deering School, 80 percent or more failed to meet standards, with no specific numbers given to protect student anonymity.

At the Kobuk School, at least 90 percent of students didn't meet standards in either subject.

At the Kiana School, only six students met English grade-level expectations, while 56 did not. As in other places, at least 95 percent of students didn't meet math expectations.

At Aqqaluk High/Noorvik Elementary, 99 students failed to meet English standards while only eight students did. As in other places, more than 95 percent of students fell below proficiency in math.

The Napaaqtugmiut School showed only 4 students meeting English proficiency levels while 95 percent did not, and only three students meeting math levels, while 97 percent did not.

Finally, at the Buckland School, 92 percent of students did not meet English standards, with only seven students judged proficient. About 95 percent fell below in math, with only five students meeting standards.

Homeschooled students in the Northwest Arctic did not fare appreciably better, with 16 of them failing to meet English standards, compared to the three who met them, and 80 percent or more failing to meet math standards, while only 20 percent or fewer did.

"While it gives parents and educators an objective check once a year to see how well students are meeting the standards in their grade level, it is not the only indicator of student learning. PEAKS scores should be used in conjunction with other measures of student learning such as classroom work, grades, and other school assessments," the test's page states.

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.


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