Chapter 12 - Solving the dropout dilemma

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Solving the dropout dilemma

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UNLIMITED Learning - the new learning revolution and the seven keys to unlock it.

breathtakingly beautiful national parks of New Zealand and a SuperCamp movement that has now spread from California to Singapore.

1. Using Japan's business methods to improve school
 
  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 centered 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 in recent years has earned 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.1 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 was transformed by the vision of two people: former Superintendent Larrae Rocheleau and former 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".2 These dreams succeeded in part, but they really

 

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