Graduation rate, investment in teachers' training rising

About 80 percent of Juneau high school seniors ended their four-year high school careers by walking the stage last May — an increase of about 10 percent in just a year.

That statistic was one of several revealed by Superintendent Glenn Gelbrich when he delivered his annual “State of the Schools” address to a crowd of about 50 inside the Thunder Mountain High School auditorium Wednesday evening.

The Juneau School District, along with Alaska’s other districts, recently switched from using state to national grades and test scores for benchmarks. The result is a drop in relative academic performance due to harder courses.

“It’s not OK to tell students, ‘you have to meet this higher standard,’ and not support them,” Gelbrich said.

In response, the district is devoting nearly $800,000 in this year’s budget for professional development of its teachers and educational staff.

Gelbrich added that students’ shortfalls in the classroom are not believed to be the result of a lack of effort by the staff, but rather possibly that the district “may not know what is best for teaching some of our students.”

The solution is devoting more money teaching teachers how to teach better.

“It’s part of helping our teachers be as effective as teachers as they can,” Gelbrich said.

Another portion of the presentation showed a small, yet steady, increase in parents’ confidence in the schools over the past four years. The satisfaction survey of 500 parents also showed the highest level of confidence in Juneau’s high school teachers in the last four years.

Student attendance rates over the past two years hovered around 91 percent while teachers and staff had a rate around 88 percent over the same span.

Disciplinary problems with students were resolved in the classroom 80 percent of the time last year, and 17 percent were handled in the school but outside of the classroom. Only 3 percent of discipline issues resulted in suspensions, Gelbrich said.

At the Riverwood/Riverside traffic signal about 25 parents and middle school children held signs protesting the School Board’s recent decision to ban out-of-town travel for middle school athletics. Another 15 or so did the same directly in front of the high school’s main entry.

Contact reporter Matt Woolbright at 523-2243 or at Follow him on Twitter at


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