Education Letter to the Editor

Seeing Education’s Future in an Alaska District

March 16, 2009 1 min read

To the Editor:

In his Commentary “Waiting for the Transformation” (Feb. 25, 2009), Arthur E. Levine is overly pessimistic about the time it will take for our nation’s education system to adopt “an emphasis on outcomes, learning, and education in and out of school.” He writes, “The nation is not yet ready to move in this direction.”

In 2001, however, the Chugach school district in Alaska won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest presidential award for organizational innovation and performance excellence, by developing precisely such a system.

Chugach wrote its own standards, secured a waiver of Carnegie units from the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, and advances all K-12 students based on their performance, not seat time or grade level. Chugach also developed software to support its approach.

The results were spectacular, with Chugach rising from among Alaska’s lowest-performing districts to the top in just six years.

Several of Chugach’s leaders left to form the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition, which has successfully replicated the program in several other Alaskan districts. It is now being deployed in Colorado’s Adams 50 district and will be piloted next year in Maine.

Glenn Noreen

Executive Director

Barack Obama Charter School

Claremont, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 2009 edition of Education Week as Seeing Education’s Future In an Alaska District