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JDHS celebrates achievement-driven students

Posted: February 3, 2012 - 2:23am

More than half of Juneau-Douglas High School students were recognized Thursday night for efforts they are making to boost their own academic achievement.

Students were recognized for Advanced Placement potential based upon PSAT scores, taking honors or Advanced Placement classes, being on the honor roll for first semester or participating in Extended Learning or Advancement Via Individual Determination. Many are involved in more than one category — totaling 472 students recognized.

JDHS guidance counselor Frank Coenraad spoke of the world’s developing technological and scientific achievements.

“We are certainly living in an exciting time,” he said. “Just witness what is happening around the world today.”

Coenraad said the way the world views and values education is that it’s an absolute necessity to progress.

“We are here to recognize your efforts in raising the bar for yourself, your families, communities, the state and nation,” he said.

Coenraad also celebrated the achievement of how well JDHS students are doing on AP test results. He explained that AP tests score from 1 to 5, 5 being the best. A score of 3 is “usually when colleges award advanced credit.”

In English language, 59 students took the test and 45 scored 3 or higher; in English literature 33 tested, 26 scored 3 or higher; 29 Calculus AB students tested and 20 recorded 3s or better; of 14 Calculus BC tests, 10 finished with a 3 or above; in biology, all but one of the 25 students finished with at least a 3 — 20 recorded top marks of 5; and of 6 physics tests taken, four students scored 3 or higher.

Coenraad also spoke of the nation falling behind on education, saying it’s a national goal to have 55 percent of Americans educated with an associate’s degree or higher by 2025 — the United States currently falls well below that number, he said.

That’s not all bad news for Alaska, however, said Nancy Potter, College Board senior education manager, with 36.3 percent having an Associate of Arts or higher. Juneau is even higher with 44.4 percent having that designation.

Potter encouraged students to keep participating in AP courses, or join up if they haven’t been involved and spoke about several studies. Those studies showed students who took AP courses in high school were better prepared for both college and life. Another study the College Board found interesting, conducted for the organization by the Hart Foundation, surveyed students a year after high school. It found more than half of students wished they had worked harder in high school; of those not in college they wished they’d taken more math and science courses.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, also a JDHS graduate, also spoke.

“We’re very fortunate to be in a very highly educated community,” she said. “... It really is exciting to see such a strong Advanced Placement program at school here. When I was coming through, there was no Advanced Placement.”

She said both AP and honors programs help “prepare students for heightened demands” even in times of budget cuts.

Kerttula also spoke about budgeting concerns — with the district facing a $5.8 million deficit this cycle, and $4.1 million last year.

“We are the richest state in this nation and to see the state cutting education funding — that’s what we do when we don’t even meet inflation,” she said. “How can a state with billions in a Permanent Fund, billions more in numerous smaller accounts, how can it be happening that we’re cutting education funding? Maybe the analogy is maybe one date, one date does not make a relationship. One-time funding, which is what is happening every year, one-time funding doesn’t make an education system run. We have got to make a long-term investment.”

Kerttula spoke of three strong education bills proposed by senators. She encouraged parents and students to write to not only the Juneau delegation — as Juneau School District Board Member Sally Saddler had urged earlier in the evening — but also to write to the governor and senators from other districts.

“Among the 50 states, from the most recent estimates: under this measure Alaska was ranking 40th in high school graduation rates,” Kerttula said.

A second set of stats showed Alaska to be last in college attendance and high school graduation rates, she said.

“That’s just totally unacceptable. This isn’t what happens in Juneau, and I’m thankful for that. We’ve got to raise the statistics, but not just raise the statistics, we’ve got to put funding into education.”

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at sarah.day@juneauempire.com.

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