Friday, August 16, 2013

Alaska School Performance Index (ASPI) Results For 2012-13 School Year Published By Alaska Department Of Education And Early Development

On August 16th, 2013, the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development (DEED) announced the release of the Alaska School Performance Index (ASPI) results from the 2012-13 school year just completed. This is the first annual report of its kind from DEED. Through a federal waiver from major provisions of the No Child Left Behind (NLCB) Act, ASPI replaces the accountability system used under NCLB's Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) metrics. Visit DEED's ASPI Portal Page HERE.

According to DEED's official press release, the numbers look promising. Collectively, nearly 92 percent of students attended schools in 2012-13 that earned three stars or above; this means only eight percent of students attended schools that might have been designated as not making AYP under the NCLB system. Categorically, 52 of the 503 rated schools earned five stars, the highest rating; 190 schools are four-star schools; 162 schools are three-star schools; 49 schools are two-star schools, and only 50 schools are one-star schools.

Rating Methodology: ASPI gives each school a score on a 100-point scale. The score is based on the following metrics:

-- Student proficiency in state reading, writing, and math assessments in grades 3 to 10
-- The degree to which a school’s students are improving, remaining the same, or declining in reading, writing, and math scores.
-- Attendance.
-- Graduation rates if the school has 12th graders.
-- Student scores on SATs and ACTs (college-readiness) and WorkKeys (career-readiness) assessments in high school.
-- Student participation rates in WorkKeys assessments.

-- In addition, based on the ASPI score, Alaska gives each school a rating from one star to five stars. All one-star, two-star, and three-star schools must implement improvement plans. Improvement plans also are required for four-star and five-star schools whose graduation rate has declined from the previous year; or whose assessment scores have declined for two consecutive years; or which have not met their Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) for two consecutive years. The last two criteria apply to achievement in the student body as a whole or any subgroup of students.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported that in addition to schools’ star ratings, each district will be placed into one of three tiers. Tier III districts (those with the lowest ratings) will receive additional comprehensive support from the state. Tier II districts will receive additional support for targeted programs, and Tier I districts will not receive additional support.

So this means ASPI not only identifies schools that are currently deficient, but schools currently meeting standards that are trending downward. The strong emphasis on graduation rates may explain why the Anchorage School District has adopted an attendance incentive program criticized by many as "bribery".

Here are the most pertinent links from the DEED website:

-- ASPI 2013 School List: Fifteen pages; shows all schools in the state grouped by school district.
-- ASPI Explanation Graphic: This is a well-designed reference providing a further explanation and breakdown of Annual Measurable Objectives targets.
-- School Site ASPI Worksheets: This permits you to select a particular school district of interest. Caution: The report for the Anchorage School District is 96 pages long; even the report for the Fairbanks-North Star Borough School District is 35 pages long.

Media Reaction:

-- Alaska Public Radio Network records reaction from several state officials. Deputy DEED Commissioner Les Morse thinks it will be a step up from NCLB standards since it recognizes the "shades of grey" not considered by NCLB. Morse also noted that since ASPI is not punitive, deficient schools can apply funds exclusively towards developing improvement programs rather than detaching a portion of funds for transferring students out to other schools or toward tutoring programs. However, Susan McAuley, who directs the Department’s Division of Teaching and Learning Support, notes that it’s tricky rating schools with non-traditional student bodies, such as school serving special needs students, pregnant teenagers, or incarcerated students. Such schools are likely to be always at some disadvantage.

-- The Anchorage Daily News, in their AP report, noted that state officials told them that because the new accountability system is so different, the only way to compare this year's ratings with last year's is to look at proficiency assessments released in report cards for individual schools, although that comparison would miss important nuances in the new ratings.

-- KTUU Channel 2 recorded reaction from an official in a rural school district. Kim Langton, Yupiit School District superintendent, said that because of continuous teacher turnover, students have to struggle getting accustomed to new teachers; NCLB standards merely added to this burden. But Langton says ASPI is an improvement over AYP, although he says teaching goes beyond how a student does on a test. He added that he key is going to be is ultimately really looking at the whole child, rather than just a score on a piece of paper on a particular day.

-- KTVA Channel 11 focused on reaction from officials at Fairview Elementary School in Anchorage, since it chronically failed to make AYP under NCLB. The consensus is that ASPI will be a better fit, since schools not only will still get credit for what students achieve on standardized tests, but also on how much they’ve improved.

-- The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner published an article which primarily summarized ASPI, although the comments appended are of interest. A separate article lists the FNSB schools.

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