Graduation Rates Key to New Accountability Formula for Rural Alaska Schools

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 12, 2014 1 min read
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Cross-posted from the Rural Education blog

By Jackie Mader

Small rural and alternative schools in Alaska will soon be rated with a different formula than that which is used for other schools in an attempt to reflect the unique challenges those schools face, according to an article in The Anchorage Daily News.

Alaska has rated its schools on a 100-point scale since 2013, taking into account factors like test scores, academic improvement, and graduation rates. The new formula will put more of an emphasis on improvement for alternative schools, as an acknowledgement that those schools often cater to more challenging students. Alaska’s small schools, many of which are rural, will have flexibility in calculating the graduation rate used in the rating system. Schools that have fewer than six students graduating will be able to use three years of graduation rate data to count in the formula, since graduation rates for those schools can be heavily impacted by just one student failing to graduate.

About 62 percent of Alaska’s schools are rural, according to The Rural School and Community Trust. Those schools serve a high percentage of English-language learners and minority students, as well as transient students. Several small, rural, and alternative schools submitted comments to the state’s Board of Education and Early Development in support of the new formula. One letter, which was published with the Board’s minutes, was written by a principal at a small, rural school that had only two seniors this year, and will have only one senior next year.

“We are working hard as a staff to support our senior so that he can graduate,” the principal wrote. “But with such a small number, if the student does not graduate, it would really skew our graduation indicator. The proposed change will help provide a realistic picture of a small school’s graduation rate.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.