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Monday, December 31, 1990

from alaska

As part of this initiation all students and all staff take part in a Ropes course - very similar to some Outward Bound courses and some Super-Camp activities. They describe it as a great confidence builder. Says TQM specialist Myron Tribus: "It does for all students what competitive athletic contests are supposed to do for a few. But it does it better. As I see it, the school is trying to develop autonomous team players."       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 week.        Because students are viewed as customers, the school tries to provide what they want. 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.        Discipline problems? "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. Students help control and prevent discipline problems through positive peer pressure."        All students set improvement goals, such as receiving all A's, avoiding conduct reports and reducing tardiness.        All students receive 90 minutes per week of quality-improvement training and school-wide problem-solving.        All staff members have been trained in flowcharting. 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 Seafoods, Alaska Premier Bait Company, Alaska's Smokehouse and Fish Co. and the Alaska Pulp Corporation - all under the umbrella of Edgecumbe Enterprises. The "parent company" started its first salmon-processing plant in 1985, run by students themselves. 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 year, 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 studied in social studies. Art students design promotional brochures and package labels for products. And business and computer students learn how to develop spreadsheets to analyze costs and project prices.        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 flavor and texture Japanese people liked the most. They then developed a standard procedure to produce the same taste and 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 program, 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 to reflect what it will cost them to live in their chosen lifestyle after graduation, taking into account mortgage payments, taxes, cost of living 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 world - so the teachers are free to put extra time into study and further course preparation.        Each curriculum is constantly being revised. As a result of student surveys and requests, Russian, physics, calculus and advanced quality training have been added.        In the CIP media class, students teach other students. There is no administrator or teacher in the room. Twenty-five student trainers have assumed responsibility for training other students in the quality sciences.        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 classes, science and technology and media CIP. These continually 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 multimedia technology such as laser discs, 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.Says Competitive Times magazine: "Mt. Edgecumbe's innovative teaching methods challenge students and draw raves from business leaders." Adds Tribus: "I wish I could find the same thirst for learning in the rest of the country."     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 successes.  NOTE:  *  Unfortunately the inspirational principal has now died and his Kaizen co-creator has left the school.  It is not pursuing the same program in full.