A Southcentral Alaska school district recently won a major award from the federal government for its success, and two former Juneau educators played a role in the district's success.
Last week, the Chugach School District, which covers rural Prince William Sound as well as a distance education program based in Fairbanks, received the Baldrige Award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, honoring "performance success and quality achievement."
Chugach - with just 30 staff members - is the smallest district ever to win the award and is one of the first winners in the education field.
Richard DeLorenzo, who taught in Juneau for 12 years in the 1980s and 1990s, is superintendent of the Chugach district. Former Juneau-Douglas High School Principal Ron Gleason serves as a consultant.
The two said Chugach follows a performance- or standards-based system that combines conventional testing with practical demonstrations of proficiency. Each student has an individual learning plan.
Gleason said a sense of ownership of the system by all parties - or stakeholders - is encouraged.
While some innovative programs are considered "cutting-edge," DeLorenzo said "we like to refer to ourselves as 'bleeding edge.' We're convinced we're the first district in America to go to a performance-based system."
Test score improvements between 1995 and 1999 reached nearly 50 percentiles in some categories.
DeLorenzo said the Baldrige Award - and its accompanying $100,000 grant - will help increase awareness of Chugach's programs. He said his goal is to take Chugach's model to a thousand districts.
"Once you have a really good vision, Baldrige helps you move forward."
The Chugach district already is working with a consortium of other Alaska districts - including Craig and Southeast Island - to spread its ideas.
Gleason said he sees Chugach's success as an example other districts can follow.
"So many districts are looking for a road map to lead to improvement, and here we have a nationally validated system that can do that."
For more information about the Chugach School District and the Baldrige Award, visit http://www.chugachschools.com.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org