DATA VIZ: High percentages of Alaskan high school students struggle with college coursework

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(App users, to view the interactive data visualization, follow this link).

Data is sourced from a study by the Alaska Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP) at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA).

According to the data pull, the UA Transcript Study takes into account University of Alaska first-time freshmen, from Alaskan high schools with 10 or more graduates in 2015, and compares the numbers of students enrolled in at least one developmental course in math or English. Small, rural high schools were not included in this study.

Due to redundancy, KTUU Staff decided to exclude West Anchorage High School and West High School Anchorage data from the total rank for "Rate of Developmental Coursework," which is out of 35 schools; however, their values are included in the top left corner of the visualization. Ph.D Herb Schroeder, Founder and Vice Provost for ANSEP, confirmed that these two data points stem from the same high school. But when conducting the study, Schroeder says that they were listed as two separate entities, when dealing with institutional data entry. For scientific integrity, Schroeder says ANSEP chose to keep the data values separate, in the study.

Including both West Anchorage High School and West High School Anchorage, there were 37 schools involved in the total study group. If you count the two names as one physical entity, then 36 schools were included in the study.

According to a college readiness study conducted by UAA's ANSEP, 60.8 percentage of graduated students, from Alaska's largest high schools, were not well prepared for UA's college coursework. ANSEP says that among those who were enrolled in the developmental courses at UA were students that previously earned honor-roll GPAs at their high schools.

Between fall 2006 through fall 2015, researchers found that of the 15,016 total study group students, from 36 Alaskan high schools, 9,124 of them, or 60.8 percent, were enrolled in at least one developmental course for math or English. And of the 1,550 total study subgroup, made up of Alaskan high school graduates from the 5 worst performing schools, 1,150 of them, or 74.2 percent, were enrolled in at least one remedial course, upon entering college.

The subgroup included students from Galena Interior Learning Acad, Juneau-Douglas High School, Ketchikan High School, Kodiak High School and Mount Edgecumbe HS.

According to the study, the rate of subgroup students requiring remedial coursework in English was at 39.5 percent, while the rate of subgroup students requiring remedial coursework in math was at 69.1 percent. And the average high school cumulative GPA among the total study subgroup was a 3.16.

The school with the smallest rate of students requiring remedial coursework, at 31.1 percent, was Valdez High School.

ANSEP concluded that these students, their families and the state "are paying for college students to take high school level classes." ANSEP says that the extra spending to teach these courses in high school, then again in college, equates to millions of dollars, collectively.

To help improve the current situation, ANSEP suggests that three starting points be addressed: "Develop joint long term goals and milestones for improvement within K12 and the university, align the academic curriculum between K12 and the university [and] implement a quality control system that provides useful feedback for all."

Regarding the issues at hand, ANSEP says that they are currently working with nine Alaska school districts.

The full study and methodology can be found here. And a joint official statement with UA can be found here.

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