State recognizes two peninsula schools for improvement

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Tuesday, December 1, 2015 10:38pm
  • News

Two Kenai Peninsula schools have been named by the Alaska Department of Early Education and Development as National Title I Distinguished Schools this year.

Chapman School in Anchor Point and Nikolaevsk School in Nikolaevsk were chosen based on two or more years of proven exceptional student performance and the on-site programs that make high success possible for low-income populations.

“We are very proud of the schools,” said Superintendent Sean Dusek in a Nov. 23 press release. “Their staff, students and communities have worked very hard. There is an obvious focus on meeting individual student needs, which has shown great results. We are very excited that the schools have earned this honor from the state level.”

The recognition comes every year from the National Title I Association. Since 2012, five of Alaska’s Title I schools have been named as Distinguished Schools. Last year 63 schools were selected nationwide.

Nineteen of the school district’s 44 schools receive Title I funding, which is designated for school districts and individual schools where the need is most significant, said Early Education Department Public Information Officer Eric Fry.

More than half of Alaska’s 505 public schools receive Title I funding, Fry said.

“The Title I program provides resources — Alaska received more than $37 million this year — to schools to better ensure that all students have a fair opportunity to access a high quality education,” Fry said. “Resources are distributed based upon the percent of low income and can be used to address the learning needs of low-achieving and disadvantaged students.”

Chapman Principal Conrad Woodhead and Nikolaevsk Principal Michael Sellers take different approaches to address the barriers to student achievement.

At Chapman, educators and administration emphasize early intervention strategies for kindergarten through third-graders that decrease the achievement gap while staff at Nikolaevsk focus on improving performance by meeting the needs of the individual.

Woodhead said the recognition validates programs and services in place at the school.

“For me, it’s difficult to attribute our success to a specific program, when really, it’s a multitude of factors,” Woodhead said. “It’s a combination of these that makes it work. From our Title I programs, our level of technology, our programmatic staffing, our intervention processes, our special services folks, our teachers, and support staff, they are all equally important in ensuring the success we share as a school community.”

Only 110 students attend Chapman, which helps staff identify and meet needs on an individual level, Woodhead said.

“I believe it is our ability to do this extremely well that sets us apart,” Woodhead said. “On top of all this, we have great kids from great families who respond well to the things we do. For that, we are equally lucky and grateful.”

Schools with a 35 percent or higher poverty rate are considered for the recognition, which is based on how many students qualify for free or reduced meals through the United State’s Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program.

In 2014, 60 percent of Chapman’s students qualified as low-income, approximately 4 percent more than in 2013.

Despite being economically disadvantaged, 100 percent of Nikolaevsk’s students consistently graduate on time. Staff help students develop and meet performance goals based on personal academic data.

“As a result of the teachers’ efforts toward focusing on individual student needs, adopting programs that fit within those goals, and focusing on research-based methods in instruction, Nikolaevsk has seen years of success as a five-star school and a school with successful students,” Sellers said in a press release.

School districts apply for funding annually, and have flexibility when deciding which schools will receive the Title I designation, Fry said.

In the current, 2015–2016 school year, 26 schools in the school district meet the 35 percent poverty criteria, said Director of Federal Programs Tim Vlasak. The school district uses assistance programs to target early elementary classes. Nineteen of the school district’s 44 schools “meet this additional criteria,” he said.

The Distinguished School designation is to identify on a national level, which schools are meeting the goals the federal funding is meant to address, Fry said. Performance in Alaska is based on standardized testing, he said.

It is uncommon for Alaska to choose two schools from the same school district in the same year, Fry said. The selected schools are invited to attend the National Title I Conference held in Houston, Texas in January, he said.

 

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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