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GAINS. Graduation and Academic Improvement for Native Students. National Forum on At-Risk Youth Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. GAINS. Presentation Team : Kelly Tonsmeire, Director Alaska Staff Development Network Carl White, Assistant to the Superintendent Bering Strait School District.

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  • Graduation and Academic Improvement for Native Students

National Forum on At-Risk Youth

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

  • Presentation Team:
  • Kelly Tonsmeire, Director
  • Alaska Staff Development Network
  • Carl White, Assistant to the Superintendent
  • Bering Strait School District

Mission of the Bering Strait School District:

The Bering Strait School District will educate our children to become self-sufficient and contributing citizens through quality programs that reflect our children’s heritage.

The Bering Strait School District, in northwest Alaska, serves fifteen isolated villages on the Seward Peninsula, on the eastern end of Norton Sound and on two islands in the Bering Sea. Current enrollment is approximately 1800 students and is almost 100% Alaskan Native Inupiat, Yu\'pik or Siberian Yu\'pik Eskimo.

Although the number of students served is relatively small, the area served covers approximately 80,000 square miles. Most of the schools are accessible only by small bush aircraft.


BSSD School Board Goals

  • Increase Parent Involvement
  • Increase Graduation Rate
  • Decrease Dropout Rate
  • Emphasize Health and Wellness

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Alaska Basics - The Great Land

  • Alaska’s size is misleading
    • Most areas are roadless
    • Only “highway” is two lane blacktop road
    • 656,424 square miles

School Districts the Size of States

  • Bering Strait School District
    • Roughly the size of Great Britain

Definitions of Isolated Frontier Area

  • Most use “6 persons per square mile”
  • ISER Report: Alaska under 1 per square mile
  • Census Bureau: 1.1 person per square mile

GAINS - Dropout Prevention Strategies

The Problem:

  • Students don’t feel enthusiastic about school
  • Students are bored at school
  • Our Alaska Native Students are disengaged

GAINS - Dropout Prevention Strategies

Why are students disengaged?

  • Learning lacks meaning and purpose
  • Students don’t see the value in school learning
  • The belief that school is not providing them with skills for adult life
  • A school climate that is not inviting

We need to start having a dialog about:

What defines success in our villages?


Bering Strait School District

High School Graduation Paths

10 + 2

The vision of John Apangalook School is to create successful life-long learners who contribute to their community and culture.




10% - 15% of BSSD graduates go to college

Less than 5% of the UA system graduates

are Alaska Native

70% students say they are going to college after graduating


BSSD High School




Leadership & Participation








Qualifying Event




Community Leadership & Participation Electives

First Aid

Cultural Classes


NACTEC Sessions

Advanced Excel

Advanced Microsoft

Hospitality Industry

Arctic Survival

Local Energy

Water Treatment

Community Leadership

Classified Education Aide

Building Maintenance

School Employee

Personal Finance

Housing Maintenance

Hunter Safety

Aviation ground school

Fisheries; USCG six-pack license

Food Handler

HELP Test (School Parapros)

Small Engine

Grant Writers

Head Start


Boiler Repair


Community Leadership & Participation

dropout early warning intervention system dewis
Dropout Early Warning Intervention System:dewis

Research says that the students have a higher chance of dropping out of school if they meet two of the following criteria...

The student is behind in READING

The student is behind in MATH

The student has poorATTENDANCE

The student has been SUSPENDED


SO... the question is:

If we know this information, why don’t we identify these students early and then formulate a plan of support for these students?


The Keys are:

  • Early Identification
  • Assessing where the student is academically and behaviorally
  • Coming up with a plan that addresses the deficit
  • Monitoring the plan
  • Redefining the plan

GAINS Cultural Competency Plan

The Problem:

The lack of teaching experience combined with the unfamiliarity of our Alaska Native cultures is adversely impacting student learning.


The Facts:

  • Our teacher turnover rate is around 35% every year
  • Most schools have new teachers, but the same high need students remain
  • New teachers have limited experience and knowledge of the local Alaska Native Cultures
  • New teachers to Alaska are unaware of the Alaska Native learning styles and the cultural dynamics of teaching in our small villages
  • Students are unable to establish lasting relationships with teachers, who could become mentors and role models
  • 48% of our teachers have less than 2 years of teaching experience
  • 15% of our teachers have 3-5 years experience
  • 63% of our teachers have less than 5 years of teaching experience
  • Most teachers come from outside Alaska
  • U.S. Department of Education Alaska Native Education Grant
  • 3-Year Project
        • 15 Small, Remote, Rural Schools in the Bering Strait School District (BSSD)

Carl - Logos?


Individualized Dropout Intervention Strategies

  • Dropout Early Warning Intervention System (DEWIS)
  • Enhancing Cultural Competency
  • Building Instructional Capacity:
    • Response to Intervention
    • Positive Behavior Management
    • Explicit Instruction
    • Assessment
building district office capacity
building District office capacity
  • Instructional Leadership
  • Implementing a Comprehensive Assessment System
  • Understanding how to use data to make instructional decisions
  • Coordination between district initiatives for coherence
building district office capacity1
building District office capacity
  • District Office trainings
  • - On-site (4 days)
  • Co-training with District Office staff
    • - On-site, regional building trainings (four, two-day sessions per region)
  • Supported the development of an RTI Manual, Problem Solving Model and AIMSweb Resource Guide
  • Resource
building staff instructional capacity
building staff instructional capacity
  • Delivering explicit, systematic instruction
        • Implementing a Comprehensive Assessment System
  • Understanding how to use data to make instructional decisions
  • Delivering rigorous reading instruction that encompasses all 5 essential components of reading
building staff instructional capacity1
building staff instructional capacity
  • Explicit Instruction
        • Behavioral Response to Intervention
  • Alaska RTI Conference
  • Literacy professional development for para-educators and teachers
  • RTI training for all staff
comprehensive assessment system
comprehensive assessment system
  • Regional professional development for all staff:
        • AIMsweb Administration
        • AIMsweb Data Management System
        • Using AIMsweb data to impact instruction
  • Data Analysis and Data driven meetings

28 Webinar Series

119 Webinar Sessions

training of trainers
training of trainers
  • Explicit Instruction (Anita Archer)
  • CHAMPS Behavior Management (Randy Sprick)

In Progress

festival of ideas best practices
Festival Of Ideas Best Practices
  • Alignment of instructional practices with Explicit Instruction
  • Development of early warning dropout prevention system (DEWIS)
  • Integrating Native art and culture
  • Deep curriculum alignment process
  • Career pathways

In Progress