Percent of Anchorage students on track for graduation drops 10%

A girl in an orange sweatshirt sits next to a girl in a pink shirt at a desk in their home facing the window while the both do school work on laptop computers
Bailey Fuller (left), 15, and Willow Fuller (right), 12, of Palmer work on online assignments in their family’s living room on March 31, 2020. (Andrea Fuller)

Fewer Anchorage high school students are on track for graduation than in previous years, according to district data.

About three quarters of ninth through 12th grade students are currently on track, a decrease of 9.9% compared to this time last year.

Martin Lang is a supervisor for high school programs at the Anchorage School District. He said it’s a rate the district is keeping its eye on.

“We’re always concerned when students aren’t successful,” Lang said. “We always want to investigate the reasons why and see if we can mitigate for those and help students find their way to the successful completion of those courses.”

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Lang said it’s important to note data from previous years include students who earned credits through summer school or credit recovery programs, which current data doesn’t account for.

But Lang also said it does reflect how students have been handling a year of distanced-learning.

“We know a lot of students have struggled, especially in our lower-income areas of the district,” Lang said. “There’s been a lot of pressure points for students that compete with their ability to really focus on their education during this time.”

Alaska Native and Pacific Islander students, who have historically struggled more, continue to be disproportionately less successful during the pandemic, Lang said.

To help, this year students have been given extensions at the end of each quarter to earn passing grades. The district is also planning a longer, larger summer program to help students recover.

Lang said the district is confident it will be able to catch students up once they’re back in the classroom.

“Some of that’s going to be short term work,” Land said. “Because we know that over this year those students who’ve struggled probably have some significant academic gaps.”

Lang said the district will be focused on moving students forward while also patching those gaps.

Middle and high school students in Anchorage are scheduled to return to in-person learning on March 15.

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