In K-12 education these days, it sometimes seems as if everything a superintendent or curriculum leader does is prescribed. The bulk of many districts' school budgets remain the same from year to year. New test requirements come from the federal government, of all places. Even local unions can seem to have more say about where personnel are deployed than the handful of people who are supposed to be running the district.
So it's refreshing to read this month's at-risk story ("The Road Not Traveled," by Melissa Ezarik). Sure, the story points out how studies prove that both social promotion and grade retention are ineffective. But within this news are sprinkled examples of districts creating their own programs. And these customized programs--ranging from including a few dozen students to 150 kids--are working. Students are making up credits, parents and teachers are creating individualized education plans, and schools are making sure that once students catch up, they stay at grade level. These programs are working for reasons that should have superintendents nodding in agreement--they were created by leaders to help specific types of students with specific problems.
Coincidentally, another feature in this issue, "Cash Back," also highlights innovative thinking by school leaders. This story includes three examples of districts that were able to improve services while saving money. Simply by examining what schools needed computers to do, how the district's existing print shop was run, or how the schools were heated provided opportunities for leaders to make changes and save money.
Both of these examples prove that local control is alive and well, as it should be. Each district leader should realize that he or she has not only the knowledge, but also the power, to greatly affect the way students in the district learn. So go ahead, flex your creativity and use all of your experience to make innovative decisions. Chances are you'll feel better about your job and you'll help your students get a better education.
Wayne D'Orio, Editorial Director