Friday, October 26, 2007

Northern School System In Alaska Leaves Nobody Behind

One northern school system in Alaska leaves nobody behind. Alaska's Chugach School District, based in Anchorage and serves tiny villages scattered across 22,000 square miles of remote areas. Instead of books, each K-12 student totes around a thick report card book listing his or her progress through the district's 1,000+ learning standards.

All the students' report cards will look different because Chugach's model follows the rule that in order to move to the next level, you must master the one that precedes it. A passing grade is at least 80% and every student must learn every subject at every level. When a student is done, they can graduate, whether they are sixteen or twenty-one years old.

"Time was the constant and learning was the variable -- that's the old model," says Roger Sampson, who led Chugach's transformation in the 1990s. "We switched. What's constant is learning. Time is the variable."

At times, the demands can be "pretty upsetting," says Teresa Totemoff, a graduate of Tatitlek Community School, who recalls slacking off for a while and then realizing she had much work to do to graduate. "I remember crying, I don't want to do it no more! But it was my own progress. I was proud of all I got done."

Certainy this is an interesting way to run a school system. Maybe other school systems should investigate this type of method.

See Free Spirit Gallery for northern art.

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