Is it really possible for nearly all students to succeed in education at high school? Are there some guaranteed methods to get teenagers “high” on achievement instead of on drugs, gangs and crime? And ways to slash dropout rates even among those entering high school way behind others? Is it actually possible for nearly every student to love high school? Fortunately, our research says: Yes. And outstanding high schools are already achieving these results by using:
- Common sense lessons from the world’s best businesses.
- Methods that captivate youngsters’ emotions so they want to stay in school.
- Sound link-ups between university research breakthroughs, competent high school teachers and new technology.
- New group study techniques that are lifting examination “failures” in to the ranks of high-achievers.
- Methods that focus on what we want for youth, not what we don’t want.
- Short graduated courses where everyone can achieve step-by-step success -at any age.
- Outstanding, concentrated out-of-school SuperCamps that result in academic results, motivation and confidence.
For working models of teenage success stories we’ve chosen examples from as far apart as the southeast panhandle of Alaska. The breath ta kingly beautiful parks of New Zealand and a SuperCamp movement that has now spread from California to Russia.
Using Japan’s business methods to improve schools.
If you had to nominate any American state as a revolutionary high school leader, Alaska would not top many lists.In area it’s the biggest of the 50 United States-twice the size of Texas. But it has the second lowest population. About half a million people. And only one metropolitan area, Anchorage, with a population of around 200,000. Its native population is diverse: Caucasian, Eskimo, Eleuts and several Native American Indian tribes, many of them centred around small community towns of only 150 to 200 people,living on extremely low incomes, in a climate where the temperature in winter can reach-17 degrees Fahrenheit or -20 degrees Centigrade. Hardly a recipe for soaring educational success.
Yet one school in Alaska deserves an accolade as a world leader. It has also shown how great ideas can stem from other fields. In this case from Japan’s quality revolution inspired originally by the American W. Edwards Deming.
TQM (Total Quality Management) and CIP (the Continuous Improvement Process or Kaizen) have been among the main processes used to transform Japan from a devastated, shattered and beaten society into a world economic leader within 40 years.
Now Mt. Edgecumbe High School, in Sitka, Alaska, has pioneered similar methods for education.’ Mt. Edgecumbe is a public boarding school with 210 students and 13 teachers. Eighty-five percent of its students come from small villages. Most are Native Americans, descendants of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimpshean tribes as well as Eskimo tribes and Aleuts. Forty percent of its students had struggled at other schools; now the school boasts one of America’s highest levels of graduates moving on to higher education.
In many ways…
it owes its transformation to the vision of two people: Superintendent Larrae Rocheleau and teacher David Langford. Mt. Edgecumbe was originally opened in 1947 as a school for Native Americans. But in 1984 it was converted into an alternative” experimental school, with Rocheleau in charge. Visitors to the school have described him as a practical idealist. One of his first objectives was “to turn these students into entrepreneurs who would go back to their villages and make a difference.
How do you summarize a school that has turned nearly every other educational system upside down and inside out? Let’s try.
- Teachers and students are all regarded as co-managers. They set their own targets and goals, individually and collectively. And they evaluate themselves regularly against agreed standards of excellence. There are no “in completes” and “F” grades at Edgecumbe. Each task and develop the skills and the self-confidence to accomplish their goals. Students are required to pursue rigorous academic programmes. That encourage them to work at their highest levels.” and quality training. Says a joint student-teacher report. By spending The first week of school each year is used for building self-esteem. The first week focusing on why students attend school.
- The first computer course begins by teaching speed typing. All students do their homework on a computer. Using word processors, spreadsheets and graphic programmes to produce 100 percent perfect results-—just as their future businesses will demand excellence in typing, spelling, accounting, financial and sales reports.
- Collectively the school has identified its “internal” customers questions (students, teachers, administrators and other staff). And its “external” customers (universities and colleges, military, industrial and service ween work force, homes and society in general).
- All activities at the school have been planned in conjunction with those “customers.”
- Students and staff have drawn up their own “mission statement.” Among many other points, it stresses that: “The school places high expectations upon students, administrators and staff. Programme and curriculum are based upon a conviction that students have a great and ofien unrealized potential. The school prepares students to make the transition to adulthood, helping them to determine what they want to do and develop the skills and the self-confidence to accomplish their goals. Students are required to pursue rigorous academic programmes that encourage them to work at their highest levels”
The first week of school each year is used for building self-esteem and quality training
- Says a joint student-teacher report; “By spending the first week focusing on why students attend school, they are ready to learn and seem hungry to begin. We focus on reaching out to find out what you are truly capable of accomplishing.
- As part of this initiation all students and all staff take part in a Ropes course. It is very similar to some Outward Bound courses and some Super- Camp activities. They describe it as a great confidence builder. Says athletic contests are supposed to do for a few. But it does it better.
- Students decided it was inefficient to have seven short study periods a day. So the school switched to four 90-minute classes. This schedule allows time for lab work, hands-on projects, field trips, thorough discussions, varied teaching styles and in-depth study. The reorganized schedule also allows for an extra three hours of staff development and preparation time each work.
- Schools consider students as customers. The school tries to provide what they want. And students have repeatedly requested more technology. So the school has added dozens of computers. And opened the computer lab, library and science facilities at night for all pupils. As one report puts it: “Quality implementation is heavy on resources because students do the work and learning, not the teachers. The average number of hours of homework has risen to 15 per week. Studying, working together, and achievement have become a habit.
- CIP has prompted teachers to rethink their teaching styles. One science teacher says he has changed from being an 80 percent lecturer to a 95 percent facilitator.
- “Improving the entire education system, with student/customer needs first, has virtually eliminated classroom discipline problems. Students acquire a sense of belonging and see the value in each class and students help control and prevent discipline prob- lems through positive peer pressure.
- All students set improvement goals, such as receiving all A’s, avoiding conduct reports and reducing tardiness.
- They receive 90 minutes per week of quality-improvement training and school-wide problem-solving.
- All staff members have been trained in flow-charting. Flow charts of long-range projects are posted. So that everyone can see how their part fits into the whole of each project.
- Because one of the school’s goals is to develop “Pacific Rim entrepreneurs,” the students have set up four pilot”companies”: Sitka Sound Seafood , Alaska Premier Bait Company,Alaska’s Smokehouse Fish Co. and the Alaska Pulp corporation-all under the umbrella of Edgecumbe Enterprises.The “parent company started its first salmon- processing in 1985.The goal was to give students the skills and experience needed for running an import-export business. Aimed at Asian markets. By the 1988-89 yea, the company was already making four annual shipments of smoked salmon to Japan. Each subsidiary company now links hands on experience with the academic curricula. So math students calculate the dollar-yen exchange rate. Pacific Rim geography is studies in social studies.
Myron Tribus provides a word picture
- of how the business projects link with other studies: “In the class on entrepreneurship, taught by Marty Johnson, I watched the students prepare and package smoked salmon for sale in Japan. The students had used a taste panel of local Japanese to determine the flavour and texture Japanese people liked the most. They then developed a standard procedure to produce the same taste an texture every time. To achieve the desired taste required using a certain kind of salmon, exposing it for a certain time and temperature, using a special brining solution, which they had determined experimentally yielded the proper taste, and a certain amount of time in the smoke from the right mixture of wood shavings, using slices of fish cut to a certain thickness and size. By studying the packages of smoked fish sold in Japan, they developed an attractive package which would fit in small Japanese refrigerators. They developed their own distinctive label, in Japanese of course. And they test-marketed the product in Japan. That marketing includes study trips to Japan and other Pacific Rim countries.
- All students learn either Chinese or Japanese, and their curriculum is strong in the history, culture and languages of the Pacific Rim,English, social studies,mathematics,science, marine science,computers, business, and physical education.
- The school’s mission statement stresses that “opportunities for leadership,public service and entrepreneurship are integrated into the programme,both during and after regular school hours”
Each student is assisted,
- guided and challenged to make choices about future academic or technical schooling. And alternative methods of making a living. Enter a business class and you’ll watch students preparing spreadsheets to reflect what it will cost them to live in their chosen lifestyle a changes and projections for such variables as the cost of transportation and schooling.
- Frequently whole classes work without supervision. As they will be required to do in the outside be me into study and further course preparation.
- Each curriculum is constantly being revised.
- Staff training receives top priority. Teachers are constantly encouraged to internally challenge and justify each and every learning process.The school has developed two research and development experiment with new technologies in equipment and human relations.
- Each teacher has his or her own computer, with training in many applications. The school has also pioneered multiple uses for multi- media technology such as laser disks, hypercard applications and presentation software.
- Every student receives a “Stats for Success” handbook. It is used to record homework, weekly plans, organize their time and graph progress. The entire emphasis is on self-discipline and self-motivation.
- And the success ratio? Mt. Edgecumbe’s simple goal is stated boldly: to produce QUALITY individuals. Almost 50 percent of all graduates have entered college and are still there or have graduated much higher than the national average. There have been hardly any dropouts. And the school is confident that all its students will continue to grow and learn.
- Mt.Edgecumbe is, of course, a boarding school, but its TQM and CIP Kaizen principles have lessons for educational systems at every level and especially for turning previous “failures”into success.