• Pathways to College Preparatory Advanced Academic Offerings in the Anchorage School District

      Hirshberg, Diane; Frazier, Rosyland (Center for Alaska Education Policy Research, University of Alaska Anchorage, 2016-10-14)
      There are many ways a child in the Anchorage School District (ASD) can access advanced course offerings. To a parent these pathways may seem complex. ASD offers options for gifted and highly gifted students at the elementary and middle school level, and accelerated, and enriched learning opportunities such as honors and advanced placement courses at the secondary level. These opportunities, though linked, are not the same, nor do they necessarily follow from one to another in a straight path. Moreover, pathways to and through these opportunities can be quite different. Offerings are different at the elementary, middle and high school levels, with differing qualifications and eligibility. And, some of the programs are only offered in a few particular schools. This variety provides lots of flexibility. It also creates a complex path of choices and decisions. In all of these pathways and choices, active advocacy by a parent is necessary to ensure that their child receive the best and most appropriate opportunities. In this report we describe the many advanced and accelerated learning opportunities available in Anchorage elementary, middle and high schools, and the ways students can access these opportunities. We provide visuals including figures, tables and text to highlight the pathways to and through advanced offerings from Kindergarten to 12th grade. This document is based upon publicly available information. We have combined information from the ASD gifted program website the ASD High School Handbook, the ASD High School Program of Studies guide, and minutes of the ASD Board meetings. We also spoke with staff in the gifted program at ASD. Individual school-level issues that are outside of ASD policy and procedures have not been included. This report focused on the services, programs and schools within the Anchorage School District that service as pathways to college preparation and advance academic course offerings. As we describe in more detail in this report, there are very different offerings and paths at the elementary, middle and high school. In general, there are gifted and highly gifted programs at the elementary and middle school level, and a highly gifted program at the high school level. At all school levels, the highly gifted programs are offered at a limited number of schools. In high school, all students (including those in the highly gifted program) have the opportunity to take honors and advanced placement classes. Math is not included in the middle and high school gifted program. Math instead is a curriculum progression. Advanced math opportunities usually start in 6th grade, when students can choose placement into math courses that are a higher than the usual level. Opting for advanced math in 6th grade puts a student on track to reach Algebra I in 8th grade and calculus in 12th. At the elementary school level ASD operates gifted programs in all schools and a highly gifted program in one. There are also alternative and optional schools, which offer accelerated and enriched learning environments. If a student is in the highly gifted or gifted program in elementary school, he or she usually transitions to gifted and highly gifted middle school programs. In middle school these programs 3 include gifted language arts and science classes. Students who were not a part of the gifted program in elementary school can access the middle school gifted program, by testing in. Many optional and alternative programs provide enriched and accelerated classes to all students in them. For high school students there is a greater variety of advanced offerings. Starting in 9th grade there are honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, Credit-by-Choice options, and optional programs within the high schools and alternative schools. Students in the middle school gifted and highly gifted program have the opportunity to transition into the high school Highly Gifted Program.