Inside the proposal to rate Alaska's schools:

Posted: Sunday, April 29, 2001

One-third of the rating's weight would be based on students' most recent scores on standardized tests in reading, writing and math. Two-thirds would be based on those scores' changes from the previous year. Fifth-graders' scores, for example, would be compared with fourth-graders' scores from the previous year.

In order to have enough data, the state would add required standardized tests in the fifth and ninth grades, and would require all 10th-graders to take the high school exam.

The tests in grades three, six, eight and the high school exit exam were developed for Alaska and are based on state standards. The tests for grades four, five, seven and nine are national tests whose scores compare students with a national sample.

The dropout rate may be factored into designations of high schools.

Kindergartners, first-graders and second-graders wouldn't be included in the ratings because they don't take standardized tests.

Immigrants from non-English-speaking countries would be included in ratings only after two years in an English-language program, unless the school chose to test them earlier.

Special education students would be included, unless they have severe cognitive disabilities. Special education students would take the same tests as other students do, but some would get accommodations. An example would be a Braille version for blind students.

Small schools probably will be on a three-year rolling average of test scores, and the state will publish its level of confidence in the ratings' validity. The downside is that a rolling total partly masks the most recent year's improvement, and that might delay a school from qualifying for a higher rating.

The state won't track students as they move from school to school, but it will publish transiency rates for schools. The questions are whether it's fair to judge schools on new students, or to measure the improvement in a class from year to year although some are different students.

In some schools, 20 percent to 40 percent of students move each year, and the poorer the community, the higher the turnover, said School Designators Committee member Mari-Anne Gross of Homer. But to track students individually was too hard, and to not count them would mean no school was responsible for them, she said.

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