Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 1:50 PM on Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Yearly progress results announced for schools oolsccca

By McKibben Jackinsky
Staff Writer

Of the 507 public schools in Alaska, 236 or 46.5 percent made AYP, adequate yearly progress, during the 2011-2012 school year, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development announced last week.

The percentage jumped to 70 percent in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District with 31 of 44 schools making the grade, according to Dr. Steve Atwater, KPBSD superintendent. That's an increase from the 30 district schools that in 2010-2011 reached targets identified in the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Of the 16 schools from Ninilchik south, 13 or 81 percent met AYP. Those that did not were

• Homer High School;

• Homer Middle School;

• Nanwalek School.

Each year, states measure schools' progress toward NCLB's goal of 100 percent proficiency in language arts and mathematics for students in grades three through 10 by spring 2014. Schools must meet specific targets in those areas, as well as attendance, graduation and participation in state assessments. The number of targets has increased as spring 2014 draws closer.

At Homer High, Homer Middle and Nanwalek schools, work has begun to improve the AYP performance for the 2012-2013 school year.

Homer High did not meet the target in math for the sub-group of students with disabilities.

"Of the 192 students tested in grades nine and 10, there were 19 students with disabilities not proficient in math," said Dr. Allan Gee, HHS principal. "These students have individual education plans that will be reviewed to consider goals for additional math support this coming school year."

Special education and math teachers are working together to design plans supporting each student's needs, said Gee. He encouraged parental support by "expecting consistent school attendance and completion of academic assignments by their children. This will allow teachers to assess students and provide timely feedback to promote increased student academic achievement."

Homer High's four-year graduation rate is 91.18 percent. Of 277 high schools in the state, HHS was ranked No. 2 in Alaska based on students' performance on state assessments and college readiness as measured in advanced placement programs, Gee said.

"We have excellent teachers, numerous course offerings and a wide range of extra-curricular activities for a small high school," said Gee. "Our students are gearing up for another exciting school year at Homer High where we live by our motto, 'small-town values, world-class school.'"

David Larson, principal of Homer Middle School, noted the 100 percent participation in testing of the 191 students enrolled in HMS during 2011-2012.

"We're really excited about how many kids come in and participate and take it seriously," said Larson.

Where the school fell short of AYP were the language arts scores for students with disabilities.

"This is something that we're looking into as we again look at a new class load. Of course, we can't deal with kids going on to high school, but we can deal with kids that were here last year, target their needs and those of the incoming seventh graders and see where to go with them," said Larson.

A new language arts curriculum is being introduced at HMS that Larson "hopes will provide one more level of academic intervention support for those kids."

Larson encouraged parents to ensure students are on time, are organized and complete homework on time, challenges that accompany the switch from elementary school to a middle school format.

"One thing we notice with middle school kids, they come to us and have to learn a whole new style of organization," said Larson. "Sometimes that has to be in place so they can make sure they get all their assignments turned in on time, get full credit and demonstrate learning going on through instruction."

Larson also urged parental involvement in school activities. The school is still looking for a soccer coach. That program started with the first day of school on Tuesday.

Nanwalek School fell short of AYP due to the language arts score for the school as a whole, for Alaska Native and American Indian students, and for economically disadvantaged students. The school's new administrator, Nancy Klein, formerly of the district's Connections program in Homer, is addressing those areas by forming a site council that will begin meeting this week, said Pegge Erkeneff, the district's communication specialist.

"They are having meetings for parents and for the community members to make comments," said Erkeneff.

Klein and teachers at Nanwalek are developing a "pretty extensive" improvement plan based on student data, setting academic goals to target and are establishing lines of communication between the school and parents, said Erkeneff.

Atwater said he was pleased the district's AYP results "are slightly better than last year and that, when compared to the rest of Alaska, we have a much higher percentage of schools making AYP."

He cautioned against jumping to conclusions about schools based on AYP results.

"I encourage the public to take some time to investigate why a school is being labeled in this way," said Atwater. "While AYP is an important designation, it may not be a defining one."