Skagway School. (Greta Mart)

Skagway School. (Greta Mart)

Students at the Skagway and Haines Schools performed better than any other district in Alaska on a new state standardized test administered last school year.

For the second time in a couple years, the Skagway School had the best test scores in the state. Josh Coughran is Superintendent of the Skagway School District.

“It verifies and validates everything that we do on a daily basis with our students,” says Coughran. “The teachers in the building deserve a ton of credit for this recognition. We can’t do it without the really supportive community and also the incredibly generous support that we get from the municipality.”

This was the first time the Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools, or PEAKS, test was administered. It replaces the Alaska Measures of Progress assessment, which was riddled with issues after it was introduced. Because of those problems, Alaska went a year without statewide standardized testing.

On the English Language Arts portion of the test, 89 percent of Skagway students scored proficient or advanced. For math, 73 percent met standards.

On the Alaska Science Assessment, more than 80 percent of Skagway students scored proficient or advanced. According to Coughran, the exact number of successful science scores is 100 percent, but the state doesn’t report that for student privacy reasons.
Though Coughran is proud of those numbers, he says the English and math scores show room for improvement.

“We still have some places to go as far as improving test scores because I’m not satisfied until we have 100 percent of our students proficient or advanced,” says Coughran.

Further down the Lynn Canal, the Haines Borough School District ranked number two for the percentage of students scoring proficient or advanced. Still, those numbers were significantly lower than Skagway.

On the English Language Arts portion of the PEAKS test, 55 percent of Haines students scored advanced or proficient. For math, not even half of the students met standards. Forty-nine percent received satisfactory scores.

Rich Carlson is interim superintendent of the Haines District.

“As far as Haines is concerned, we did substantially better in language arts and in math than the state did,” says Carlson. “I’m pretty pleased with that. But in terms of the results, on a statewide level it’s pretty disappointing.”

The number of students scoring proficient or advanced was even higher in science. Seventy four percent of students scored in the top tiers.

Statewide, 38 percent of students scored advanced or proficient on the English portion of the PEAKS test. In math, 32 percent received satisfactory scores. On the Alaska Science Assessment, 46 percent scored at least proficient.

But despite Haines high ranking against other schools in the state, school board member Sara Chapell said the scores are still not where they should be. There’s still a significant percentage of students scoring below or far below proficient. Chapell spoke at a board meeting Tuesday.

“I do understand that this is a snapshot. But we had a snapshot two years ago and the results are very similar,” said Chapell. “So we’ve taken two pictures in the last three years and both pictures are not as good as we want them to be.”

Carlson says the scores are more useful when they’re broken down.

“And that will go to the teacher,” says Carlson. “And the teacher then will help – the scores will help the teacher be able to drive the instruction for the individual student.”

Since this is the first year of the PEAKS test, these scores will serve as a baseline to measure progress.

At the Klukwan School, which is part of the Chatham School District, 50 percent of students scored advanced or proficient in English Language Arts. Eleven students took the test. The students struggled much more in math, with only 20 percent or fewer receiving an advanced or proficient score.

KHNS was not able to reach the Chatham superintendent by deadline for this story.