News-Miner: Alaska school rankings an improvement over federal system



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The new state rating system for K-12 schools appears to be an improvement from the federally imposed system it replaces.

The state system gave good grades to most Fairbanks schools. They received between one and five “stars,” with five being the best. All but four local schools received three stars or more.

The previous federal system, from which the state obtained a waiver, put schools on a path toward drastic changes and funding cuts if they didn’t meet unrealistic benchmarks in a multitude of categories.

The new state system is more realistic.

However, because the assessments still are based largely upon student performance, not all schools did well, even in the new system. Those schools with many students who are struggling academically were ranked poorly.

In addition to basic measures of student performance, the new rating considers improvement in scores, which is an important factor. Attendance rates and, for high schools, graduation rates and college and career readiness test scores also are used.

However, some schools could have the best teachers using the best methods to teach the best curriculum and they still would come up short of stars because their students aren’t academic stars. Those schools will have to create improvement plans, with the help of the state.

That’s the right direction, but no one should expect the sort of miracles previously demanded by the federal law. These kids deserve the opportunity to obtain a good education, but, ultimately, it’s up to them to take that opportunity. No government — neither federal, state nor local government — will be able to force them to do so.

 

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Aug. 21

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