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 With most of Alaska's rural schools falling behind the mark in educating students, the pressures of no child left behind is forcing them to look at new strategies. It's these new strategies that educators are hoping can turn around student's performances. If you look at this list which shows what schools did not make adequate yearly progress, you'll find the majority of Alaska's rural schools are on here. Which is why administrators, superintendents, and teachers from 18 rural districts met this week to drastically change.


"There are a lot of schools in danger of failing," said Cody McCanna, a teacher who works for the Southwest School District. When you look across this room, you'll find educators representing bush Alaska who want to change how their students are learning. "We are talking about student learning, it's the primary focus of what we are doing," said Al Bertani, of the Urban Education Institute, who is helping rural educators this week with techniques. With the majority of rural Alaskan students producing low test scores based on no child left behind requirements the challenges of raising them are difficult. "I know we have school in our district that I don't' know their going to get them up to grade level," said Becky Gallen, a teacher with the Alaska Gateway School District. "In rural areas we basically are given tools that are used in an urban setting and now we have to take those and tweak those strategies so they work in multi grade classrooms and they are not always made for those settings," said McCanna. "The biggest problem is finding highly qualified teachers in order to teach the content areas in our district, we have relatively small schools and lots of teachers are tasked with doing things that are outside of their content areas," said Alex Russin, an assistant superintendent with the Lower Yukon School District.


By bringing isolated educators together, the goal is to show various methods that can be used to motivate both teachers and students. "Part of this is about motivation, its motivating the adults who work with them who are going to motivate the kids that they are working with as well," said Bertani. Method that with no child left behind lurking can bring our kids above the mark. In talking to folks representing different areas of rural Alaska, you get the feeling that despite the hardships of dealing with no child left behind requirements they are dedicated to figuring out whatever techniques work to help their students. But they are not alone in this battle as on the list includes eight schools from Juneau, ten schools from the Kenai Peninsula, fourteen schools from Fairbanks, and 53 Anchorage schools from all over the city.


School may be out for the summer, but that doesn't mean Alaska's schools aren't doing their homework in teaching kids more efficiently. The work is now more important than ever with a new no child left behind list giving many urban and rural in Alaska bad grades. And it's because of those grades which is why educators are pushing to change the culture of education.


When it comes to preparing kids for life beyond school. Both rural and urban Alaska school districts are facing challenges to meet no child left behind guidelines. "One category can throw a whole school into not making adequate yearly progress and I don't think its fair," said Carol Comeau, the superintendent for Anchorage School District. The biggest challenge is in dealing with national requirements. Requirements that don't fit Alaska's kid's needs. To punish people because three kids didn't come to school the day of the test so they didn't make their 95 percent attendance in each category in the three days of testing to me is ridiculous," said Comeau. "To apply a one size fits all formula in Alaska and especially rural Alaska just doesn't work," said Russin.


But by working on different teaching techniques and strategies. The idea is change the culture in how a student learns to have success. "We want them to move beyond proficiency and to excellence," said Comeau. "The way we teach today is totally different than the way we taught ten years ago or even five years ago with technology and everything," said McCanna. A success that educators say everyone needs to be part of. "We need parents to get involved in getting their school on time, ready to learn if they don't have food in the house, they need to make sure they get them there for the breakfast program," said Comeau.


If schools do fail to meet adequate yearly progress for five years, a restructuring phase can occur which could mean anything from a change in staff to a state takeover of the school. Something that has not happened in Alaska so far. Officials say despite the hurdles of no child left behind here in Alaska, the law has been good in forcing them to identify students who may be at risk of falling behind.