Our story begins in the early 1990s in a rural Alaskan school district comprised of a native population as well as other groups. Over the previous 20 years, very few high school graduates had gone on to college and students had few opportunities beyond high school for work or community participation. Chugach School District staff believed their students deserved a brighter future and challenged themselves to envision a radically new, student-centered approach to education in which students would move at their own pace and all community stakeholders would have a voice in the vision for the organization. Their passion led them to design and implement an innovative competency-based education system that led to dramatic improvements. Student achievement scores rose significantly, teacher retention rates soared, and satisfaction surveys showed students, staff, and parents felt the change was right. The news about the dramatic success in a small Alaskan town traveled far and fast, and Chugach received the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2001.
Could this new approach to education help other students and other districts? We had to find out. Reinventing Schools directors Wendy J. Battino and Rick M. Schreiber were part of the core team that dedicated hundreds of hours to developing, applying, and continually improving the thematic units, tools, assessments, and instructional approaches central to Chugach's award-winning model. Being part of the transformation was so inspiring that in 2002, they established the Re-Inventing Schools Coalition (RISC) as a nonprofit organization with experienced staff from Chugach and a talented board of directors. The RISC Foundation was created to help address requests from other organizations and to garner additional support for their standards- and performance-based approach. In 2014, RISC became Reinventing Schools, a division of Marzano Research.
We adopted a passionate mission of helping all students achieve—particularly lagging and failing students, who some believe will only attain limited achievement due to their background, disabilities, prior performance, or other perceived obstacles. We knew we could empower these and all students to take control of their education, engage them in learning, honor their differences, and prepare a strong pathway toward college- and career-readiness and ultimately lifelong success. So we worked with educators to refine, expand, and formalize the processes, tools, and systems of change developed at Chugach into a research-based, systemic approach to teaching and learning that Robert J. Marzano has called “the most comprehensive and well-articulated approach to standards-based reform in the country.”
The Reinventing Schools model has now been replicated in a growing number of diverse school systems across the United States with the kind of inspiring results first seen in that remote Alaskan district.