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Positive climate at school may have largest impact on Alaska's students

Alaska Dispatch

Research released by the Association of Alaska School Boards (AASB) shows that a positive school environment, academic challenges and good teachers are all important elements in keeping students in class. KTOO reports that for several years AASB has been collecting data from at-risk students and school staff across the state. Its initial findings suggest that academic environment plays a large roll in whether or not a student does well, but a new focus group offered more.

Sally Rue, an AASB association director, told KTOO, "When kids have a good climate at school and that breaks down into respectful climate, and caring adults, and good peer climate, and whether they have a voice in the school, when those conditions are present, it’s associated with that school having higher statewide testing results on Alaska’s statewide tests." Rue adds, "And that’s what our Alaska data shows and that’s the same kind of thing that you would see nationally in the research."

The focus group was comprised of nearly 300 Alaska Native and non-Native high school and middle school students and recent drop-outs from 26 schools, both urban and rural, across the state. The study considered at-risk student needs and the difference between groups.

Juneau School District Assistant Superintendent Laury Scandling told KTOO, "Both of those groups of students appreciate a positive climate, they appreciate being challenged in schools, they don’t want to be babied, they want a strong connection with their teachers and they want respect from their teachers." Scandling continues, "If students are telling us this works for them, then I think we redouble our efforts as a community and a district to ensure that those facets of the environment are as strong as they can be.”

AABS plans to present the findings during its annual conference at the Hotel Captain Cook in downtown Anchorage on Saturday and Sunday.
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