Saturday, October 23, 2004

Alaskan schools, Princeton sharing



By Anna Guido
Enquirer contributor

SHARONVILLE - In the Bering Strait School District in northwest Alaska, classes are canceled in one school if a bowhead whale is landed, so students can help bring the catch ashore and divide it.

ALASKAN SCHOOL
Bering Strait School District:
• Located on the northwest coast of Alaska, on the mainland and on several islands around Norton Sound.
• Serves 15 K-12 schools in 15 villages and is spread out over an area about the size of the state of Minnesota.
• Enrollment at each school ranges from 45 to 210.
• Total district enrollment: 1,700.
• Primary access to each school/community is via small aircraft or helicopter
• Much of the local economy is based on traditional subsistence hunting and gathering, with the schools being the largest single employer in most of the communities.
"Whale Days" are built into the school's calendar.

In Greater Cincinnati, classes are canceled in the Princeton City School District when it snows too much and roads become impassable.

"Snow Days" here also are built into the calendar, and usually prompt a day of sledding for students.

Although they're thousands of miles apart - and equally distant culturally - the challenges of student achievement have brought the two districts together.

Mike White, Princeton's testing director, will fly today to Unalakleet, Alaska, where he'll spend a week with Bering Strait teachers and administrators, sharing his knowledge on instruction strategies at Princeton.

"He's going to tell them how we're meeting the challenges and what's working for us," said Chris Gramke, director of communications for Princeton schools.

White's work is independent of his job with Princeton, a district of 5,931 students. For five years, through the Denver-based, non-profit Center for Performance Assessment, White has visited schools in 25 states to help them with their assessment and achievement.

In Unalakleet, White said, he'll also talk about Princeton's focused-instruction strategy of "teaching the important stuff, staying focused, making sure kids have learned, and helping those who haven't."

In turn, White will bring back to Princeton - and to other schools where he is a consultant - success stories from Bering Strait.

Among those stories:

• How some Bering Strait schools this year achieved the best standardized testing results in years.

• How the district had its lowest teacher turnover in 12 years.

The low turnover, said Greg Johnson, director of curriculum and instruction at Bering Strait, "is quite a coup, given the remoteness of our communities and the fact that the majority of our teachers come from outside Alaska."

In a district spread so far and wide, there are many challenges for teachers and administrators, Johnson said.

"Still, we see very encouraging progress and look forward to the insights and assistance individuals like Dr. White can offer our staff."

White is among a group of professionals who will be leading workshops at the Alaskan school district's annual conference, including presenters from the Reinventing Schools Coalition in Alaska.

E-mail aguido@fuse.net




ELECTION 2004
Ohio races:
'Challengers' to keep eye on voters
Guess who's back? Edwards, Cheney, Bush rally in Ohio
Despite suit, lawyer denied chance to vote
Veteran, novice face off in 53rd
Police investigate break-in at Bush campaign office
Butler challenger took 'appeal' to ballot box
Experience, GOP dominance at issue in county clerk race
'99 Drake levy push in question
Evendale officials ask for more taxes
Prosecutor's campaign new
Efficiency, access to data at issue in race for recorder
Debate stresses differences in deficit, Iraq, Medicaid
Supreme Court pits tried, true vs. fresh, new
Voter: No to Talawanda tax
Kentucky races:
Absentee requests increase
Actors, athletes add luster to House races
Students bring election to class
Secretary of state: Vote should be smooth
Mongiardo, Bunning camps trade barbs
Dems bet against Bunning
To vote for them, you'll need a pencil

TOP STORIES
Suspect in kids' killing asks to die
'Teardown' on the table for Blue Ash
Psychic to help in Oxford case

IN THE TRISTATE
Pair charged in '97 death of Ohio man
Alaskan schools, Princeton sharing
Police records join statewide network
Princeton High School plans musical events
Man guilty of shooting into cop's car
Public safety briefs
Local news briefs
Neighbors briefs

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Good Things Happening
Faith Matters: Lorene Wall still loves teaching kids

LIVES REMEMBERED
Robert Marrs was funny, sunny

KENTUCKY STORIES
Program shows car seat safety
Cov. students taste success
N. Ky. news briefs