Superintendent shares academic progress report

Josh Coughran shared the Measures of Academic Progress Assessment (MAP) test results at the Nov. 1 school board meeting. The MAP tests focus on the areas of reading, mathematics and language usage.

The computerized tests are uniquely adaptive in that the more questions the student answers correctly, the harder the test becomes. Conversely, the more questions the student gets wrong, the easier the test becomes. The total scores are compared to national averages.

The results are from the fall 2016 administration of the test. Coughran remarked that the school board requested, at the last meeting, to do some comparative data as far as “norms,” or midpoint, were concerned.

“NWA didn’t have the report that exactly matched what the board was looking for, so I went ahead and grabbed the data and I created these reports myself. I think that they not only show, what I think the board was looking for in terms of achievement and comparison. [But] it also protects the anonymity of the students who are taking these test,” Coughran said.

In reading: grades one through six Skagway students scored 83 percent at or above the national average. For grades seven to 11, the students scored 90 percent at or above the national average. Overall, grades one through 11 scored 86 percent at or above the national average.

In mathematics: grades one through six scored 81 percent at or above the national average, and grades seven to 11 scored 83 percent at or above the national average. Overall, grades one through 11 scored 82 percent at or above the national average.

In the area of language arts: grades three through six scored 92 percent at or above the national average, grades seven to 11 scored 90 percent at or above the national average. And overall, grades three through 11 scored 92 percent at or above the national average.

Think that that lays a pretty effective baseline for what the board was looking for as far as comparison data,” Coughran said. “I think what I’m looking for the most is the growth measure that I’m going to be able to put in subsequent reports. So, we can be talking about not only in comparisons with the hundreds of thousands of students who take these assessments across the nation, but also those growth intervals of where or not our students are growing the way that they should be.”

Coughran sent a letter to all of the parents regarding the test scores and analysis he put together.

Students to receive more technology support during travel

The volleyball team will be the first to try out a new Mifi wireless “hot spot,” for additional technical assistant during travels.

“When our kids travel, and they go on the road for extra-curricular activities, it’s been a struggle for us over the years for students to keep up academically simply because they are out of communication. They are out of the classroom,” Coughran said.

“So much of the [course] work and so much of the content is online, and there are so many places that our kids travel, (where they) aren’t able to have access online,” he said.

The solution is a portable hotspot that can support five users at a time. The Mifi supports the same safety filters as used in the school and it works anywhere there is a cell phone signal.

The volleyball team will be traveling at the end of the month and will give Mifi a test drive.

Climate change student group moves forward with Marshall Island trip in spring

A group of students studying the effects of global climate change presented their plans to travel to the Marshall Islands on a research trip during and around Spring Break, 2017.

The Marshall Islands are a sprawling chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and the Philippines. Climate change experts say the islands won’t last another 30 years.

The group showed a short video that discussed the rising tide levels in the Marshall Islands. And for the Marshallese, the destructive power of the rising seas is already an inescapable part of daily life.

The group’s advisor, teacher Kent Fielding, once taught in the Marshall Islands and still has contacts there.

The group has been interviewing people in Majuro over Skype. But the students want to visit in person to see what is really happening in the Marshall Islands.

The board suggested staying closer to home and studying climate change in Barrow. But the students held fast to the destination of 29 atolls scattered across 750,000 square miles of northern Pacific islands.

“There are so many opportunities here in Alaska to study global warming. There [is] Barrow and there’s a lot of different things… It’s something to think about,” said School Board President John Hischer.

Other board members initially said it appears the students are going down there mainly as sightseers and not offering any solutions. They wanted more from them.

“I feel like I want to empower you kids to really make some decisions in this,” said board member Cara Cosgrove. “One of the things that I appreciate the way you are going is that Mr. Fielding has some connections there. And I think the value of world travel is huge regardless…. I think what you are going to learn about climate change is going to hit you.”

Danny Brady delivered an impassioned speech to the board, explaining why the Marshall Islands is the group’s destination of choice.

“Everybody in Alaska knows about climate change. We all know about Barrow,” Brady said. “I didn’t know about the Marshall Islands before Mr. Fielding started talking about it. No one really knows about these people. And in less than 30 years, they are going to be gone. The only place they have left to go is here (the US),” Brady said. “Fortunately our country has made it easy for them to be incorporated into our country and get a Visa. But the only thing they are going to have left is their passport. The people up in Barrow, they can move to another village. They are still going to be in Alaska. They have a home still. These people won’t have their home.”

The school board voted to allow the Climate Change Group to visit the Marshall Islands next spring provided they offer a detailed schedule of activities and bring something back to Skagway, such as a presentation of their findings. – SA