The percentages of students in the Anchorage School District on target to graduate and attending school at least 90 percent of the time slightly decreased in the 2014-15 school year compared to the previous year, according to data presented Wednesday at a School Board work session.
Kameron Perez-Verdia, School Board president, said the board will use the information to get a better understanding of the schools and identify both challenges and successes among them. He described the trove of data as a "10,000-foot level" look at the school district.
Districtwide, the numbers show that 7.8 percent of students in grades 7 through 12 got out-of-school suspension last school year, compared to 7.2 percent in the 2013-14 school year. Just more than 80 percent of students showed up at school at least 90 percent of the time, according to preliminary numbers. That's two percent less than the previous year.
The School District also presented data on the percentage of students "on-target," meaning they have completed the minimum amount of courses (for middle schoolers) or credits (for high school students). Last school year, the district considered 73.4 percent of students on-target, down from 74.2 percent in the previous school year.
Another set of metrics showed how many K-8 students met academic goals as measured by AIMSweb, an assessment the School District uses to screen students. The data showed that students' academic performance in math and reading fell slightly overall compared to the previous school year, both in grade-level and more individualized measurements.
While the data only showed very slight districtwide changes last school year compared to the year prior, it showed stark contrasts among some schools.
At Begich Middle School, 15 percent of students received out-of-school suspensions last school year, compared to around 2 percent at Highland Tech Charter School, the Anchorage Vocational Academic Institute of Learning (AVAIL) and South High School.
Michael Graham, School District chief academic officer, said the district was having "some heavy discussion" about suspension rates. "We are breaking this way down to understand exactly what is happening," he said.
Additionally, according to preliminary numbers, 100 percent of Girdwood K-8 School students attended class 90 percent of the time. At Benny Benson Secondary School, a school for students deemed "at risk," the attendance rate fell closer to 30 percent, the School District reported.
The percentage of students considered "on-target" also varied. At Highland Tech Charter School, 12.8 percent of students between grades 7 and 12 were considered on-target, compared to 92.5 percent at Polaris K-12 School.
Comparatively, the percentage of students on-target at some alternative schools, including Crossroads, a school for pregnant and parenting teenagers; Specialized Academic Vocational Education (SAVE) High School; Whaley School, for students with acute behavioral needs; New Path High School, for students in jail; AVAIL; Benny Benson; and McLaughlin all fell under 36 percent.
Perez-Verdia said in some cases, like Highland Tech, the schools may have a different timeline for students to earn the required number of credits to graduate.
About the alternative schools, School Board member Bettye Davis said, "All those programs are vital to us. If we didn't have them, they'd drop out."