Aired on: December 13th, 2016
3:30–4:30 p.m. (ET)
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Our Guest(s) This Week
Daniel Walker is Superintendent of the Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD) headquartered in Bethel, AK. Dan has worked in LKSD for the past 24 years as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent, and superintendent. He is an innovator in increasing access to technology in an effort to break down barriers for students in LKSD. He places a strong emphasis on building positive relationships at all levels to establish a strong foundation for trust among all stakeholders. He has a strong passion for supporting innovative ways to increase student engagement. Dan was chosen one of 14 national Education Week "Leaders to Learn From" in 2014. That year he also led LKSD in the AdvancED Systems Accreditation process to become the first fully systems accredited school district in Alaska.
J. Kelly Tonsmeire
J. Kelly Tonsmeire is the Founder and Project Director of the Alaska Staff Development Network (ASDN), a division of the Alaska Council of School Administrators. For more than 30 years ASDN has provided face-to-face and online training to teachers and administrators state-wide, as well as technical training to Alaska’s school districts. Kelly has designed and directed numerous school improvement grant projects, which were funded by private foundations and the U.S. Department of Education. He is the recipient of four major, national education awards, including a National Dropout Prevention Network (NDPN) Crystal Star Awards of Excellence in Dropout Recovery, Intervention, and Prevention.
This Week's Topic
Join Kelly Tonsmeire and Daniel Walker as we explore dropout prevention in the Lower Kuskokwim School District (LKSD), the largest Rural Education Attendance Area in Alaska in terms of number of schools and number of students. Encompassing an area the size of the state of West Virginia (21,000 square miles), the district runs 27 schools in 23 communities, 22 of which are remote Yup’ik villages. With over 4,100 students, LKSD has one of the highest poverty rates anywhere in the nation and has a student population approaching 98% Alaska Native.
A systems approach to dropout prevention is key to LKSD’s success thus far and is the linchpin for further success. In 2015, LKSD was awarded an Alaska Native Education grant focused on increasing graduation rates through expanded career counseling, increased engagement for students in career exploration opportunities, and professional development for teachers.
In late 2015, LKSD began a strategic thinking process to reform the way schools in LKSD operate. This process engaged the LKSD Board and stakeholders in a systems approach to education reform. Key to this effort was increasing graduation rate and dropout prevention. In spring of 2016, the LKSD Board set several key measures as benchmarks for the district to achieve over the ensuing three years. One key measure is to increase graduation rate to 75% by the 2019 school year. LKSD’s graduation rate increased from 37% in 2013 to 53% in 2016. While acknowledging this significant progress, LKSD leaders are not satisfied and are endeavoring to do more.
This webcast will explore the process, outcomes, and lessons learned from LKSD’s efforts, including the following key takeaways.
• Reform needs to be systemic.
• There is no single solution.
• Dropout prevention is everyone’s work.
• Collaboration is hard work.
Key Measures of Success
Video: LKSD Dropout Prevention https://youtu.be/a0krJi7RCVs
Strategic Thinking Model
Video: Touch of Time https://youtu.be/NJxlTNrIjY8