Should Small Schools in Alaska be Closed?

Should we close smaller schools that perform very well while keeping open larger schools that have performed poorly for years? Which would you choose, size or performance?

There has been much discussion recently about education funding for some of the smaller schools in Alaska.  Most of this discussion has focused on whether or not small rural schools are viable and worth the cost.  We believe the discussion should be reframed so that the question is, “Which schools are educating our children and should be rewarded for providing a good education for Alaskans?“.  That is where the focus should be-on the students, not the building size.

In some of the 5 larger urban Alaska school districts there are schools which are not performing well.  For example, in the ASD Clark Middle School failed No Child Left Behind 9 of the 10 years that the law applied to Alaska.  And the District and the State did nothing to fix the problem, which they were required to do by federal and state laws.  So, should we keep open Clark Middle School which has failed more than 1,000 students each year for many years?  Or should we close the Cooper Landing School which has fewer than 20 students who scored a whopping 75% and 63% in English Language Arts (ELA) and Math on the new Alaska Measures of Progress test (AMP), respectively?  Performance should matter.

The Alaska Policy Forum has examined those schools facing the minimum 25 student enrollment cliff.  That is, should these schools be closed because their enrollment is less than 25?  Here is a list of schools with an Average Daily Membership (ADM) of fewer than 25 students in the 2014/15 school year, according to the State Department of Education & Early Development, and whose legislative district they are in.  We have analyzed the 2015 results of the new AMP test and sorted the schools into  four classes.  We have always believed the debate should shift from school enrollment to the quality of the education a particular school provides.

The AMP test categorizes students in four categories: 3 and 4 meet the standards, and 1 and 2 partially meet the standards.  For our purposes, categories 3 and 4 represent proficiency.

In the future, we will look at the middle sized schools and sort them by the same criteria.



(Defined as having 10% or more of student test scores in the two highest AMP categories (3 and 4) in ELA or Math) (No Score means the number of students is too small without disclosing perhaps the students’ identities)

SCHOOL, DISTRICT LEGISLATORS                              % PROFICIENT

Chignik Lagoon School, Edgmon/Hoffman                     33% ELA/ 33% Math

False Pass School, Edgmon/Hoffman                              50% ELA / 50% Math

Gusty Michael School, Edgmon/Hoffman                       No Score / 20% Math

Igiugig School, Edgmon/Hoffman                                    45% ELA / 9% Math

Kokhanok School, Edgmon/Hoffman                               33% ELA / 33% Math

Pilot Point School, Edgmon/Hoffman                               14% ELA / 28% Math

William Sonny Nelson School, Edgmon/Hoffman           No Score / 12% Math

Yakov E. Netsvetoff School, Edgmon/Hoffman              50% ELA / No Score


Arvik School, Herron/Hoffman                                          8% ELA  / 33% Math


Beryozova School, Keller/Dunleavy                                42% ELA  / 49% Math


Anderson School, Talerico/Bishop                                   26% ELA / 20%Math

Cantwell School, Talerico/Bishop                                     46% ELA / 68% Math

Circle School, Talerico/Bishop                                          10% ELA / 0% Math

Dot Lake School, Talerico/Bishop                                     No Score /40% Math

Gladys Dart School, Talerico/Bishop                               64% ELA /15% Math

Slana School, Talerico/Bishop                                           No Score / 33% Math

Chenega Bay School, Stutes/Stevens                              28% ELA/ 14% Math

Chiniak School, Stutes/Stevens                                        71% ELA / 71% Math

Yakutat Home School , Stutes/Stevens                          12% ELA / 10% Math

Karluk School, Stutes/Stevens                                         25% ELA/ 37% Math

Tatitlek School, Stutes/Stevens                                       14% ELA / 14% Math

Port Lions School, Stutes/Stevens                                   31% ELA / 0% Math


Cooper Landing School, Chenault/Micciche                   75% ELA / 65% Math

Hope School, Chenault/Micciche                                      54% ELA / 45% Math

Moose Pass School, Chenault/Micciche                           60% ELA / No Score


Ella B. Vernetti School, Foster/Olson                               No Score / 11% Math

Extensions Correspondence School, Foster/Olson         66% ELA / 11% Math


Klukwan School, Kito/Egan                                                           32% ELA / No Score

Haines Home School, Kito/Egan                                                   53% ELA / 36% MATH




Klukwan School, Kito/Egan                                                           32% ELA / No Score

Haines Home School, Kito/Egan                                                   53% ELA / 36% Math


Howard Valentine School, Kreiss-Tomkins/Stedman              56% ELA / 50% Math

Whale Pass School, Kreiss-Tomkins/Stedman                         27% ELA / 38% Math

Naukati School, Kreiss-Tomkins/Stedman                               58% ELA / 50% Math

Port Alexander School, Kreiss-Tomkins/Stedman                  60% ELA / No Score

Port Protection School, Kreiss-Tomkins/Stedman                  40% ELA / 20% Math

Pelican School, Kreiss-Tomkins/Stedman                                 28% ELA / 43% Math

Tenakee School, Kreiss-Tomkins/Stedman                               37% ELA / 25% Math


Hyder School, Ortiz/Stedman                                                     14% ELA/ 29% Math


Valdez Home School, Colver/Dunleavy                                     20% ELA/ 20% Math





(Defined as schools with fewer than 10%  mastery in ELA or Math )

SCHOOL, DISTRICT LEGISLATORS                                         % PROFICIENT


Larsen Bay School, Stutes/Stevens                                           9% ELA / 9% Math

Johnny John Sr. School, Herron/Hoffman                                9% ELA / 9% Math

Qugcuun School, Herron/Hoffman                                            0% ELA/ 9% Math

NWABSD Home School, Nageak/Olson                                    4% ELA / 0% Math

Jack Egnaty School, Edgmon/Hoffman                                     O% ELA / No Score




(Defined as schools with zero mastery in both ELA and Math)


Akutan School, Edgmon/Hoffman                                               0% ELA / 0% Math

Blackwell School Edgmon/Hoffman                                            0% ELA / 0% Math

Innoko River School, Edgmon/Hoffman                                    0% ELA / 0% Math

Twin Hills School,    Edgmon/Hoffman                                      0% ELA / 0% Math

Cruikshank School, Talerico/Bishop                                          0% ELA / 0% Math

Tanacross School, Talerico/Bishop                                            0% ELA / 0% Math

Tsuk Taih School, Talerico/Bishop                                            0% ELA / 0% Math

Diomede School, Foster/Olson                                                   0% ELA / 0% Math







Chignik Lake School,                                                                   No Scores/ No Scores

Chignik Bay School,                                                                     No Scores/ No Scores

Lakeview Homeschool,                                                               No Scores / No Scores

Meshik School,                                                                             No Scores/ No Scores

Pilot Point School,                                                                        No Scores/ No Scores

Marathon School, Olson/Micciche                                            No Scores / No Scores

Johnny Oldman School, Nageak/Olson                                    No Scores / No Scores

Barry Craig School, Kreiss-Tomkins/Stedman                      No Scores / 33% Math

Hollis School, Kreiss-Tomkins/Stedman                                 No Scores / 20% Math

New Horizons High School, Colver/Dunleavy                         No Scores /No Scores



So, should we base the closure of schools on size or performance?  Let’s incentivize performance and reward it.  If a school has 10 students and they are excelling, keep it open.  On the other hand, if a school is failing miserably, then either close it or fix it very fast before students’ futures are stolen from them.