Unalaska City School District has gained yet another accolade—the top public school district in Alaska. That’s according to Niche.com, a commercial website that gave the district an A+ rating and put Unalaska at the top of the list of the best school districts in the state.
Superintendent John Conwell says he was glad to hear of the ranking.
“I was pleasantly surprised, I can’t remember exactly who directed my attention to that, but I think it was also cited in a business magazine as well, I heard, so you know, it’s great to get those accolades, it’s nice to be ranked as one of the top performing high schools in the state," Conwell said.
Niche.com is a content startup website that ranks school districts, colleges, and communities based on data and personal reviews. For Unalaska to reach the top in their ratings, it had to show excellence in academics, diversity, facilities and other metrics; as well as having good reviews from students and their parents. Much of the factual information was taken from the federal government’s Department of Education and the United States Census Bureau.
Half of Niche’s score relies on a school’s academic rating, which is calculated using state testing results, SAT and ACT scores and graduation rate, among other factors. UCSD has a 90 percent graduation rate, which is well above the national average. Conwell says these high achievements have been cultivated over many years.
“I think we’ve been consistently a high-performing school and school district, even back in 2011 when we won the national Blue Ribbon School award, that was based on a long history of being high performing school district it wasn’t because we’d made sudden gains within a year or two, it was because we achieved a high level and managed to hold on to that and maintain it," Conwell said.
Unalaska high school principal Jim Wilson says any positive recognition is good. Regarding this latest high ranking, Wilson says he’d like to see a larger sample size for the survey, since there were only seven student or parent reviews included, but he thinks the district has grown in stature despite its small size.
“We’ve always had a lot of community support for the school but in my… gosh, I guess I’ve been here about fifteen years now, I’ve seen the school really grow," Wilson said. "We’ve always had a dedicated staff but I really think over the least ten years or so we’ve started to turn the corner of being recognized for what we’re doing out here and providing a high quality education for students and preparing them for college and the workforce and we’ve always done that but the recognition has grown.”