Affinity diagrams, run charts, mission statements and weekly goals may not sound like standard classroom tools.
However, Reese Elementary School educators are using the business practices to teach students responsibility and organization - two qualities needed for the workforce.
Lodi Unified School District officials showed off the successful program Thursday morning to Congressman Richard Pombo, R-Tracy.
Pombo toured several classrooms at Reese Elementary School, which was the first district school to adopt the Koalaty Kid program in 1998.
Ten Lodi Unified schools are currently using the program and several more schools are expected to be trained in the practices in the next year.
Catherine Pennington, Lodi Unified's assistant superintendent of elementary education, said the program is expected to take shape at all district elementary schools in the next two years.
The Koalaty Kid Alliance was founded by the American Society for Quality, a nonprofit Wisconsin-based business group.
The approach began at Carder Elementary School in Corning, N.Y. during the late 1970s. ASQ became involved and in 1994, the program was officially launched. More than 200 schools in the country use the program.
In Lodi Unified, Reese started the Koalaty Kid approach after receiving a $10,000 grant from the Bank of Lodi.
A $400,000 grant from Lodi Gas Storage, LLC, which will be donate over five years, is helping district officials expand the program to the rest of Lodi Unified schools.
Reese Principal Joan Morrison said the program's goal is to teach students how they can make a difference in their learning. A familiar saying at the school is "If it's to be, it's up to me," she said.
In several classrooms, Reese students showed how they used lotus diagrams to brainstorm and analyze story characters and charted their math progress with run charts.
In Donna Bennett's third-grade class, students sat on the classroom floor listening to a book about renowned Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh.
Afterwards, Bennett passed out purple sticky notes to each student. "What would be one important fact that you would include in writing in a paragraph about van Gogh?" she asked her pupils.
The students wrote down the facts and posted the notes on a chart paper. Their responses ranged from how van Gogh painted with dark colors to "he was so sad that he cut off his ear."
Bennett organized the notes in columns, matching similar facts about van Gogh. That information transformed into an affinity diagram, which students would later use to write paragraphs about the artist.
Pombo learned of the innovative program used by Lodi Unified from a staff member and decided to check it out while Congress is out of session for the next month.
"It's really interesting to see. It's like a quality control program for education," Pombo said.
The Koalaty Kid approach could help other schools raise school academics to meet requirements under the No Child Left Behind Act, signed by President Bush earlier this year, he said.
Pombo said the program teaches goal-setting and positive thinking, skills needed for academic success. "Looking at the school's test scores, it's proven to be successful," he added.
Some students were glad to display their work, especially for a Congressman.
"It's pretty cool," said 7-year-old Christopher Gatschet about Pombo's visit.
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