SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

A Measurable Academic Goal for the District

By Agnes Moran


July 29, 2016
Friday AM

The Ketchikan School Board is in the process of setting goals for the district and the superintendent for the upcoming school year. I think it is time the Board set tangible, measurable, academic based goals for the district that will have long term, positive impact on our community’s children. The primary goal I would like to see the School Board commit to is a 92% graduation rate (as calculated by the national standard adjusted cohort graduation rate used by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (DEED)) for the freshman students entering Ketchikan High School this fall.

The freshmen students entering Ketchikan High School this fall will have the opportunity to graduate in the year 2020. The School District’s current superintendent was hired in 2007, the same year class of 2020 entered Kindergarten. Thus, the majority of the class of 2020 has spent their entire educational careers under the direction of Mr. Boyle. During his tenure, our graduation rate has languished in the 70% range, topping out at 76.9% for the 2014-2015 school year. Nearly one out of four of our children are failing to graduate. Yet time and again the School Board has praised the superintendent and steadily increased his salary and benefits. If the School Board truly has such a high level of confidence in the superintendent’s leadership, they should not be afraid to set a goal of a 92% graduation rate by 2020.

Since 2010, states, districts and schools across the United States have been using a new, common metric—the adjusted cohort graduation rate—to promote greater accountability nationwide. Prior to 2010, graduation rate metrics were not standardized and districts used whatever metric showed their graduation rates in the best light. The non-standardized metrics could not be used for comparisons across districts and made it impossible for the general public to know what was truly happening in their local school district.

When members of our School Board and school administration reference “our true” graduation rate as being higher than the DEED rate, they are basing their claim on a non-standardized metric that is not recognized statewide or nationally. They are attempting to return to the pre 2010 time frame in order to inflate our graduation rate to look good at our children’s expense. Other communities in Southeast Alaska (such as Petersburg, with a DEED graduation rate that has reached as high as 91.11%) do not need to hide their graduation rate behind non-standardized metrics.

This community has a significant investment in the class of 2020. During the time span starting when the incoming freshman entered kindergarten in 2007 and continuing until the time they graduate in 2020, our school District is projected to have received nearly $380 million in state Basic Need funding and local contributions. The $380 million does not include many millions of dollars of additional funding in the form of public pension subsidies, grants, debt service and capital improvements. Thus, by the time the Class of 2020 graduates, those additional resources are projected to total around $150 million. Combined with the Basic Need funding and local contributions, total true cost of education during the years the Class of 2020 was in school is likely to be well over half a billion dollars.

A 92% graduation rate should not be too much to ask for in return for the over half a billion dollar investment in education that has been made during the time the class of 2020 has been in school. The community has done its part; it is time for the School Board and administration to do theirs. They need to believe in our children and either commit to a 92% (or higher) graduation rate for the class of 2020 or step aside.

Agnes Moran
Ward Cove, Alaska

Received July 26, 2016 - Published July 29, 2016

About: "Parent of a student in the Class of 2020 who believes that every child should graduate."


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