SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


What price mediocrity?
By Agnes Moran


October 15, 2008

In the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District the price is $1,229,476.00. That is the amount the district has appropriated for the Tongass School of Arts and Sciences for this school year. $1.2 million buys a school that is failing our students so badly that it is in danger of Federal Intervention because of failure to make Adequate Yearly Progress in some areas. The costs don't end with the annual appropriation because once the students escape Tongass School; additional funds have to be spent to bring a significant percentage of the Tongass students up to the level of their peers. Tongass School is the only failing elementary school in the school district.

Historically, Tongass School has always been the poorest performing grade school in the school district. Tongass School has never lived up to the goal promised in its charter application of 80% average proficiency rating congruent with No Child Left Behind. In reality, non-Caucasian and economically disadvantaged students at Tongass School run a great risk of being left behind. (Note that Tongass School has essentially the same percentage mix of students as all of the other grade schools in the school district with the exception of Pt. Higgins.)

Out of curiosity, I charted the results of the 3rd grade standards based assessment (SBA) tests for the district for school years ending 2006, 2007, 2008. These SBA tests are an important indicator of future school performance for students even though they are a measure of minimum competency. My numbers are derived from the most recent Report Card to the Public and were presented to the School Board at their regular meeting on October 8th.

For Tongass School, it wasn't a pretty picture. During this time period, an average of 21% fewer Tongass School students were performing at a proficient level in reading and in math and an average of 4% fewer students in writing compared to the school district average of all of the grade schools.

The picture gets grimmer if you compare Tongass School's performance on these tests to the only other charter school in the district, Ketchikan Charter School. An average of 31% fewer Tongass students were performing at a proficient level in reading and in math and an average of 12% fewer students were at a proficient level in writing than Ketchikan Charter School students during this time period.

I appreciate that test scores are only a snapshot of what takes place during a school year. I do volunteer in the classroom on a weekly basis and have done so since my children entered school. I understand the challenges teachers and support staff face providing a quality education for students with a wide range of abilities. I think it is very unfair to the other elementary schools in the district that are working hard to educate our children and are making progress in so many areas to allow Tongass School's poor performance to continue.

In today's environment of shrinking budgets and dropping enrollment I don't believe that we can afford to continue to support a substandard school. The contract between the Tongass School of Arts and Sciences and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District contains a stipulation that the contract may be terminated for "Tongass School's failure to meet educational achievement goals". Tongass School has never met its educational achievement goals. Tongass School has never met its commitment to our children or to the community as a whole. The time has come to exercise this option in the contract.

I don't challenge any parent's right to knowingly accept a substandard education for their child. I do however challenge their right to ask me as a taxpayer to pay for it. I cannot in good conscience support any School District request for school funding to the cap while they continue to squander $1,229,476.00 of taxpayer money.

Agnes Moran
Ketchikan, AK

About: " Local parent concerned about education and involved in our schools."

Received October 15, 2008 - Published October 15, 2008


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