Results of the Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools assessment and the Alaska Science Assessment were released Sept. 5, revealing that the Kodiak Island Borough School District performed slightly better than the statewide average.
However, scores indicated that both on a statewide level and in the Kodiak school district, most students do not meet the standards of proficiency in English language arts, math and science.
Students score on a scale that is divided into four levels of achievement: advanced, proficient, below proficient, and far below proficient.
Overall, 40.5% of Kodiak students scored at a proficient level in English language arts, 39.9% in mathematics, and 43% in science. At the state level, 39.2% scored at a proficient level in English language arts, 35.7% in mathematics, and 44.6% in science.
Jennie Schauff, director of curriculum and instruction at KIBSD, presented the assessment results at a Board of Education work session on Monday.
Schauff said KIBSD does not use PEAKs assessment to examine instructional practices at the classroom level, but the test gives the district a sense of its performance.
The scores of students in the district were higher than the average state scores in both English language arts and mathematics for every grade level except sixth grade.
“We’ve known that we need to work on the transition of students between fifth grade and sixth grade,” Schauff said.
According to Superintendent Larry LeDoux, sixth graders perform better when they are part of elementary schools, rather than middle schools. The decision to transition sixth graders to the Kodiak Middle School was made because of space constraints, and not because they thought students would be better off.
“Generally, research will tell you that whenever you have the break, kids will go through a dip in scores. You’ll see that in transition statewide,” LeDoux said.
Board of Education President Duncan Fields said he is “very interested” in considering the option of having some sixth grade classes as part of Kodiak elementary schools.
In the Alaska Science Assessment, Kodiak scores were lower than the state average. LeDoux said this may be because the district implemented a new science curriculum last year that may need adjustments.
PEAKS scores also showed significant variation in student performance among Kodiak’s elementary schools, with Peterson Elementary, the highest-performing school, scoring almost twice as high as East Elementary, the lowest-performing school.
At East Elementary, 34.4% of students scored at a proficient level in English language arts, and 44.6% scored at a proficient level in mathematics. At Main Elementary, those rates were 35.6% and 44.8%. At North Star Elementary, those rates were 42.1% and 62.7%. At Peterson Elementary, they were 67.6% and 70.4%.
LeDoux said score differentials are primarily related to income levels and English fluency levels.
“It’s very difficult to compare one district to another, or one school to another,” LeDoux said, noting that student demographics and socioeconomic backgrounds have a significant effect on test results.
According to data gathered by PEAKS, in Peterson Elementary, 27% of students were classified as economically disadvantaged. In North Star, 57.8%. In East Elementary, 64.5%. In Main Elementary, 71%.
Across all schools, average scores were lower for economically disadvantaged students
LeDoux said a third of students in the district qualify for Title 1, federal funding given to ensure low-income students receive a high-quality education.
However, he added that no matter why Kodiak students aren’t performing at the state standard, the district takes the results seriously and will work to improve performance.
Both LeDoux and Schauff agreed that while PEAKS is provides some useful information on districtwide performance, educators get better information from other assessments given regularly to students, which can show how much information students are retaining.
“The problem with PEAKS assessments is that it’s like a judgment on teachers,” LeDoux said. “We can do better and we’re taking a lot of steps to do better.”
Schauff’s presentation also addressed scores in the ACCESS for ELL exam, an English language proficiency test for students identified as English language learners. Students scored between 1, representing the most basic proficiency level, and 6, representing an advanced proficiency level.
Three hundred fifty-six Kodiak students between kindergarten and ninth grade took the exam. The majority of students scored in the intermediate range, in levels 3 and 4. Overall, scores increased for higher age groups. At the kindergarten level, 49% of students scored at the most basic level.
“We have many youngsters who are graduating at the top of their class who didn’t speak English when they entered the system,” LeDoux said.
Around 76,400 students participated in the spring 2019 administration of PEAKS and the Alaska Science Assessment. In Kodiak, 1,136 students participated in PEAKS assessment, administered to students in grades 3 through 9. Four hundred fifty-one Kodiak students took the Alaska Science Assessment, which was administered to grades 4, 8 and 10.
PEAKS was first administered in 2017, and tests students in English language arts and mathematics. PEAKS and the Alaska Science Assessment are designed to provide data on the performance of schools and districts in Alaska.
“Overall, it feels good to be above the state average, but we need to make adjustments,” LeDoux said, adding that in order to raise scores in the future, every grade level must take responsibility for ensuring success in their year.
“We want a lot more out of our student performance than the ability to perform on a test,” he said. “We’re going to increase our scores by rolling up our sleeves and doing the things necessary for all of our kids to find success.”
Individual student score reports will be distributed to schools and parents later this month.