Lathrop Spirit Rock

Lathrop High School's Spirit Rock Tuesday morning, August 20, 2019. The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District scored above average in the latest statewide performance evaluations, the state Department of Education and Early Development reported Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019.

The latest statewide performance evaluations indicate students in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District scored higher than the state average proficiency levels in science, English and mathematics but slipped compared with their own scores from the 2017-18 school year.

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development released results from the Performance Evaluations for Alaska’s Schools — PEAKS — and Alaska Science Assessment on Thursday.

PEAKS is administered statewide to third- through ninth-grade students and measure students’ understanding of the state’s current English language arts and mathematics standards. The Alaska Science Assessment is administered to fourth, eighth and 10th grade students and measures students’ understanding of science, also based on state grade-level standards.

“I think consistently we tend to have scores that are above the state’s average,” said Ellis Ott, senior research analyst with the Fairbanks school district.

Scores compared with the other four largest school districts in the state — Anchorage, Kenai, Juneau and Mat-Su — tend to fluctuate from year to year, Ott added.

Scores fall within four levels: advanced, proficient, below proficient and far below proficient.

Statewide, about 76,400 students were tested in 2018-19. According to the recently released results from that school year, overall, 39.2 percent of the students tested scored at a proficient level in English language arts. In mathematics, 35.7 percent of students scored at a proficient level, and in science 44.6 percent of students scored at a proficient level.

In the Fairbanks school district, results indicate 41. 8 percent of students scored proficient in English language arts. In mathematics, students scored 39.3 percent proficient, and in science they scored 51.2 percent proficient.

Comparatively, in the 2017-18 school year, 45.7 percent of Fairbanks students across all grades tested scored at a proficient level in English language arts, while 41.2 percent of students scored proficient in mathematics and 52 percent scored proficient in science.

The decrease in the overall English language arts scores in the district between the 2018-19 school year and the prior year reflects a statewide trend, according to Ott.

“I think each of (the other four) school districts along with the state have seen a decrease in the English language arts results,” he said.

Ott said he was concerned about a newer section of the assessment called “text dependent analysis” after seeing the statewide decreases.

Meanwhile, there’s something different going on with math scores, Ott said. To better understand the trends, he has been looking at both the PEAKS test and Measures of Academic Progress Achievement Averages.

Ott explained that in the MAP assessments, students in the district scored an average normal curve equivalent of 50.0 in reading, which is on par with the national average.

“We’re not seeing scores going down on the MAP in reading between ‘17-18 and spring ‘18-19,” he said.

In math, however, the Fairbanks students scored 46.9 on the MAP for spring 2018-19.

Ott will be giving a presentation to the school board on Sept. 17, alongside colleague Melanie Hadaway. He’s looking at score comparisons between the district and the state, as well as at how the district measures in overall achievement with the MAP Achievement Average.

“So, when I’m going to be talking to the board, that’s what I’ll be talking about,” he said. “It looks like English language arts we have less of a concern given what we’re seeing there than we do with math.”

Ott encouraged anyone looking at the results of the PEAKS and Alaska Science Assessment to check on statewide data.

School districts have until Wednesday, Sept. 25 to give parents student-level reports. State, district and school level results can be seen on the the Fairbanks school district’s data dashboard, at https://public.tableau.com/profile/k12northstar#!/

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510. Follow her on Twitter at: twitter.com/FDNMlocal

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