Charter School in Alaska Becomes Success Story

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What does berry picking have to do with math?

Children at a public charter school in Anchorage, Alaska, know the answer - they've sorted berries by color, size and shape, measured and weighed them, and figured out how many there are per square foot of ground.

Turning berry picking into a math lesson is one example of an approach that is helping students at the Alaska Native Cultural Charter School make remarkable gains in achievement scores.

The school is grounded in Native values and activities; it strives to make students proud of their heritage. That's coupled with a strong academic program. The result: In just two years, scores for students' performance on statewide tests have risen significantly, in some cases dramatically.

An impressive 95 percent of the school's third-graders reached proficiency on state reading tests in the 2010-2011 school year, compared to 59 percent in 2009. Proficiency rates in reading, writing and math for the whole school climbed by more than 10 points over 2009.

The school is an Anchorage public school for preschoolers through seventh graders. It is open to all students but 90 percent of those enrolled are Alaska Natives. Probably a third of the 207 kindergarten-through-seventh grade students came straight from rural Alaska, said Elizabeth Hancock, the school's administrative assistant and a founder and member of the Academic Policy Committee that helps govern the school.

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