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The Lower Yukon Education Model

The LYM or Lower Yukon Model is known by many other names in other school districts in the country. It is based on a Standards Based Model that incorporates the best practices of teaching.  This Standards Based Model of education is being used in many other states including Illinois, Colorado, Maine, and California.

The Lower Yukon Standards Based Model is not much different than a traditional system of education.  It is a combination of the best things that teachers do, repackaged with a fancy new name.

LYSD Standards
The core of a Standards Based Model is the standards.  Standards are the skills we expect a student to know at each level.  These standards are clearly identified and listed for teachers, students, and parents.  This helps everyone know the requirements for promotion from one level to the next.

In addition to the state mandated standards in the core areas (reading, writing, math, and science) LYSD also has standards that we expect all students to learn in the following areas:  Yupíik, Employability Skills, PE/health, and Social Studies.

Having standards is important because it creates clear expectations for everyone (students and teachers).  It clearly outlines what a person needs to do to graduate or to move from one level to the next.  It also clearly indicates the skills a student has mastered when they finish a level.

Instead of a student saying, "I passed 5th grade," a student can say, "I passed level 5 and here is a list of the things I know how to do."  Everyone will know that they mastered all of the standards for that level when they pass a level.

In a traditional system, a 5th grade students may learn different things at different schools. With a clear set of standards for level 5, we know that all of the LYSD students are mastering the same requirements.

The term "levelizing" is a formal way to do what good teachers have always done.  In a traditional school, teachers often grouped students by their individual abilities (often by colors, for example the red group, blue group, green group).

This process has been formalized to make it consistent for all grade levels and all schools.  If a student transfers from Emmonak to Hooper Bay, we immediately know what "ability group" he or she is in (for each content area).  This would be indicated by the level they are in for reading, writing, math, etc.

In larger schools with several teachers, levelizing students is also a way to reduce the range of student "ability groups" a teacher needs to have in each classroom.

For instance, in a traditional school a teacher may have one grade in their classroom (based on age group).  Within that age group there would be some high ability students, some low ability students, and some average students.

By levelizing, we would move the low students into a different group of kids with more similar abilities so they can be successful.  We would also move the high students into a group with more similar abilities so they are not bored and can be challenged to meet their potential.

Instead of calling them grades based on ages... we now call them levels based on a group of students with similar ability levels.

Balanced Instruction

This sounds like something new, but it is really what good teachers have always done. Good teachers balance lecturing students in front of the class, with activities and real life applications of the skills they are learning.

This means that you may see the following things in the classroom:

Class Lectures - a teacher stands in front of the class and gives direct instruction

Drill & Practice  - a student is practicing what they learned with the help from the teacher or other students

Activities & Projects - the students are applying what they learned on a project or activity

Real Life Connections - the students are making practical real-life connection to their lessons (such as participating in a cultural activity, working at a job, or doing community service)

Individualized Learning
In a traditional school a student would be assigned a math class that is based on his age. For example, a 9 year old would be placed in grade 4 math. If that student struggles with math he would probably earn Ds for scores (and maybe Fs) because he was in a math level that was based on his age, not his ability. That student could spend the entire year getting Ds in math and be promoted to the next level (grade 5 in this example) without understanding grade 4 math. This could go on for several years. That child may never understand math and may never like math.

In LYSD, we say that students have "individualized learning" because they can be at different levels (in different content areas) based on each childís abilities and needs.  For instance, if a child is very good at reading, he would be in a high level reading class.  If that same student is struggling with math, he would be placed in a math level that matches his abilities so that he is not frustrated and can successfully improve his skills.

Additionally, any student that is very good at math should be allowed to take a higher level math, such as algebra, as soon as he or she is ready for that course.

Some people confuse "individualized learning" with "learning at a child's own rate." In a traditional system a child has 1 year to complete an algebra class. She may feel rushed to complete the lessons and may possibly earn only a C or a D. If she does not finish the course in that year she will fail the class and get an F for a final grade.

The Lower Yukon Model supports the belief that children "learn at their own rate." This means that a student needing extra time to complete a course, such as algebra, should be allowed the opportunity to have the time needed to be successful.  At minimum, they should be given the time needed to gain enough understanding to earn a grade that is better than a "D" or "F."

In the Lower Yukon School District a child is only limited by his or her motivation.  Students can work on standards and levels outside of school.  This includes working standards during the weekends, evenings, and even the during the summer.  Standards completed outside of the classroom, with the guidance of a teacher, can be applied to the requirements to complete a level.  Again, a student is only limited by how hard he or she is willing to work.

Students that miss a lot of school (for any number of reasons) also benefit from ìindividualized learningî in a standards based system.  LYSD has many students that are gone for various reasons and return at a later time.

In a traditional school, students earn an "F" for classes they are unable to complete. This grade is on their permanent record, impacts their GPA, and they receive no credit.  Any work that is completed during the quarter would have to be repeated when they retake the course at a later time. In a standards based system, these students would continue working on the standards at the point they left off. All of the previous work completed before leaving school could still be used to pass their level.  These students would earn full credit for the course once it is completed.

Graduation Levels in LYSD
        Reading - Elements of Literature
        Writing - Elements of Language
        Math - Algebra
        Science - Science & Technology
        Social Studies - Alaska History & Government
        Yupíik II
        Health & PE II
        Employability Skills II

Post Graduation Level Courses
Advanced levels are available in every LYSD content area.  These are levels beyond our graduation minimums in reading, writing, math, science, social studies, Yupíik, employability skills, and PE/health.

Distance delivery courses are offered each year (including Aviation and Emergency Trauma Technician courses based out of Hooper Bay).

College courses are also available to students, free of charge to high school students that have completed the minimum LYSD requirements.

Job training programs are available, including high school students working in the villages and students attending job shadows in Anchorage and Juneau.

In addition to these academic requirements and opportunities, the Lower Yukon Model encourages teachers to teach through the use of projects and real-life activities.  The goal is that students have an opportunity to learn these standards by working on practical projects and cultural activities that are of high interest to the students.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact the LYSD Curriculum Department.

Last Modified: Jan 20, 2010

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