Hall pass: Alaska schools waiting to be excused from No Child Left Behind

The state of Alaska next month will ask the federal government to approve new education standards to replace the so-called No Child Left Behind program.

The state has requested a waiver from the federal law, which has vexed educators for a decade. State education officials are now in the process of adopting new assessments to replace Adequate Yearly Progress.

Alaska’s Adequate Yearly Progress report for the 2011–12 school year came out earlier this week. Once the waiver is approved, Alaska will no longer have to meet AYP as defined by federal law, says Eric Fry, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.

“If we’re granted the waiver, this upcoming school year would be the last year which we follow the AYP system. That would go away and we’d have our system, which would have to be approved by the federal government,” Fry says.

Under federal law, a school fails to meet Adequate Yearly Progress if it falls short in just one category. Schools also are not recognized for annual improvements. Fry says the accountability program Alaska is designing would treat each school individually.

“One of the things people didn’t like about the law is that it seemed a draconian way of dealing with schools that might be doing rather well, but are falling short in one or two areas,” Fry says. “In the draft proposal that we’ve put together, all of that would go away and instead we would ask schools to aim toward reducing their non-proficient students by half over a six-year period so each school would have its own target based on where it’s starting now.”

Schools would be ranked on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest. Fry says each level would be marked by a star.

“And so the public would see very quickly how their school is doing. And if schools are stars 3, 4, or 5, they’re doing rather well, so we would ask them to look at their students and see if they have achievement gaps: Are there subgroups of kids who are not doing as well as other groups, such as low-income students, or students with disabilities? Then the districts would have to work with their schools on improvement plans,” he says.

The lowest achieving schools in Alaska number about 60, Fry says. The state education department would step in to work with the districts to raise the achievement levels in each poorly performing school.

“At any given time the state might be actively working with the districts on maybe the 50 to 60 lowest-performing schools,” he says. “Meanwhile the districts wouldn’t be off the hook for helping non-proficient students, but you wouldn’t have this draconian system of consequences that are triggered by any little thing, and you wouldn’t have the same consequences no matter what the real situation is on the ground. So we think of it as a more realistic system of accountability.”

Before the U.S. Education Department will waive No Child Left Behind requirements, the state has to show that Alaska standards for reading, language arts and mathematics will prepare students for college and a career. The state Board of Education recently adopted such standards. Fry says the board believes federal education officials will approve Alaska’s standards.

Recent headlines

  • Norton Gregory

    Juneau Assembly candidate reflects on old DWI and DUI

    Norton Gregory is running for Juneau Assembly in the upcoming municipal election.
  • The state ferry Columbia will soon sail south for repairs to a damaged propeller. That will  leave Sitka without marine highway service for two weeks. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

    Kennicott ferry fills in while Columbia is repaired

    Alaska’s largest ferry will be down for repairs longer than expected. Another ship will fill in, but it’s smaller and some travelers will have to make other arrangements.
  • Alaska Native Sisterhood members march in Wrangell during the Grand Camp's 2015 Convention in Wrangell. (Photo Courtesy Peter Naoroz/ANB)

    Brotherhood, Sisterhood prep for convention

    Alaska’s oldest Native organizations are trying to attract younger members. That and other issues are on the table at the ANB-ANS Grand Camp Convention Oct. 5-8.
  • The Explorer of the Seas docked in Skagway. (Photo by Emily Files/KHNS)

    Skagway tourism season comes to a close

    As the air gets colder and the days shorter, the Skagway tourism season is coming to a close. Overall, tourism staff says this summer was a success. The last cruise ship of the season has come and gone and shop owners around Skagway are preparing for winter, cleaning up and closing their doors. The streets that were recently busy with visitors are quieting down.

Comments

Playing Now: