Anchorage educators push for Alaska Natives' success and graduation

Courtesy: MGN Online
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(App users, to view the interactive data visualization, follow this link).

Data sourced from the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development's (AKDEED) Data Center.

According to AKDEED: The 2017 4-year cohort group includes all students who first entered grade nine in 2013-2014; meanwhile, the 2017 5-year cohort group includes all students who first entered grade nine in 2012-2013. Furthermore, these students had to have "attended a public high school in Alaska during the cohort period, and did not transfer to a private school or to a public school outside Alaska, or die, before the end of the 2016-2017 school year."

To calculate the cohort graduation rates, divide the number of graduates (numerator) by the number of student members in the group (denominator).

Use the interactive data visualization, above, to:
• Compare how many high school students are graduating annually, statewide.
• Compare both 4 and 5 year cohort graduation rates of Alaska's student subgroups and demographics.

Wednesday is the last day of school for students in the Anchorage School District. And local administrators expect that roughly 3,200 students will graduate this May.

While statewide graduation rates for the 2017-2018 school year likely won't be released for several months, last year's results indicate a steady increasing trend for ASD. School officials say approximately 81 percent of ASD's students graduated last year, which is up 16 percent over the past decade.

[MAP: See where students are graduating across Alaska]

Comparing statewide graduation rates to last year, 78.24 percent of students graduated in a 4-year cohort – students who first entered ninth grade in the 2013-2014 school year. That number increases to 81.32 percent when factoring in a 5-year cohort – students who first entered ninth grade a year earlier.

Of all the student subgroups, the race with the lowest cohort graduation rate was Alaska Native – at 68.53 percent and 71.97 percent, respectively. But state educators say they do not want those statistics to discourage minority students.

Across the state, there are several resources in place to help eligible students apply to qualify for Title VII Indian Education eligibility, graduate and succeed. According to ASD's Indian Education senior director, Doreen Brown, there's already been graduation growth within the ASD.

"Last year, from 2015-2016 to 2016-2017, we actually had a 3 percentage point graduation increase in our 4-year-cohort, and then just a little bit of an increase in that 5-year cohort," says Brown. "I'll take gains where they are, as this is the business of graduating students. Every student passing that line is important."

These specific statistics pertain to Alaska Native and American Indian students that are also eligible for the Indian Education program. Brown says that Indian Education categorizes students slightly differently than the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development.

"They can be one or more race, or they can be specifically that race [Alaska Native]," explains Brown. "We're looking at any student that is eligible for our program. So they can mark any ethnicity they want, but they have an eligibility on file with us."

According to federal law, an advisory committee holds monthly meetings at ASD – including teachers, parents and three high school students of Alaska Native and American Indian descent – to provide feedback and discuss areas of pocket success within the state, and how to replicate that across the district. Brown says these meetings are taken into account when strategizing how to help eligible students fulfill credits and other graduation requirements.

"It's voluntary, but we're keeping our eye on the prize – we want all of our students graduating," says Brown. "So if we know they're in jeopardy of not graduating, we're going to help them secure those particular credits and that grade to help them to graduation."

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