By Joseph Robertia
When Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science opened as a kindergarten through sixth-grade charter school in 2004, the teachers hoped to offer the best educational practices and instruction they could to the 88 students that inaugural year. Since then the school’s enrollment has grown to 252 students, but the commitment to excellence remains the same, evidenced by Kaleidoscope receiving a National Blue Ribbon School award.
“To me, this validates the hard work that goes into making the right choices for kids,” said Robin Dahlman, principal at Kaleidoscope for the past five years.
The U.S. Department of Education recognizes outstanding schools annually, selecting ones in which, “Their leaders not only articulate a vision of excellence and hold everyone to high standards, they stay close to the real action of teaching and learning. Mutual respect and trust run deep in their cultures. Faculty are supported by mentoring and professional development and have time to coordinate their work. Data from many sources drive adaptations to support every student. Families and educators work together in trust.”
This year, 285 public and 50 private schools were honored during the award ceremony earlier this month. Kaleidoscope was one of only three schools in Alaska to receive the honor, and one of only 15 charter schools recognized nationally. Dahlman, along with Kelli Stroh and Nicole Shelden, two teachers at the school since its founding, flew to Washington, D.C., last week to accept the award.
“The past 11 years have been a privilege to embark on such an exciting journey of teaching through the arts and sciences,” Stroh said. “Our school is very honored to be recognized for thinking outside the box. The award is not only for our school but the entire Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Our school district was just put on the national map for school of excellence.”
Schools are usually recognized in one of two categories — closing a wide gap between low- and high-performing students, or, as with Kaleidoscope, exemplary high performance over a five-year period.