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Articles: Teaching & Learning

Meeting students’ psychological needs, improving STEM programs and fueling college and career access exemplify innovative solutions increasing student achievement nationwide. The 24 school systems honored in this round of District Administration’s Districts of Distinction national recognition program found creative ways to raise graduation rates and to build up administrative effectiveness.

Macroinvertebrates in cities: Howard County high school students, above, study area streams to check for potential pollution that might harm nearby Chesapeake Bay.

Using a survey tool, biology students in 13 Maryland high schools  help environmental scientists keep an eye on pollution and other factors that might harm Chesapeake Bay or its creatures, including Maryland’s renowned blue crabs.

Teachers from Kettle Morain School District in Milwaukee complete a microcredential to receive a salary increase.

Few teachers receive individualized professional development, though many are expected to personalize learning for students. Microcredentials—digital badges that teachers earn by learning a skill and demonstrating mastery through student results—offer a PD pathway designed to be highly differentiated and engaging.

Paradise Valley USD in Arizona screens all ELL and former ELL students for gifted programs.

English language learners remain the least represented group in gifted programs—meaning districts do not sufficiently tap the talents of the growing number of immigrant students entering U.S. schools.

Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez's initial spending plan was cut by $3.2 million by the school board.

Beth Schiavino-Narvaez has led Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut for two years. But it’s been two decades since a landmark state court case ruled the district had violated the U.S. Constitution by isolating children based on race and socioeconomics. And despite new budget woes, Schiavino-Narvaez continues to fight for better schools.

Miami-Dade County’s BioTECH @ Richmond Heights—a conservation-biology-focused STEM high school that opened in 2014-15 with help from an $11 million federal grant—focuses on zoology, botany, genetics, ecology, chemistry and environmental sciences.

More than five years after Congress required schools to serve healthier food, districts are using social media, technology tools and old-fashioned personal outreach to connect with parents. The goal: persuading them that today’s school meals are nothing like the sometimes unhealthy foods they remember from their own childhoods.

Students in a Spanish 3 class at Bethlehem Central High School may live in upstate New York, but they look for new homes in Spanish-speaking countries around the globe.

After discovering her students were fans of HGTV’s ‘House Hunters International,’ Bethlehem Central School District Spanish teacher Jessica Westervelt developed a lesson in which her class searches Spanish-speaking countries online for vacation homes.

Gail Pletnick, superintendent of Dysart Unified School District 89 in Surprise, Arizona, was elected president of AASA for 2016-17.

Gail Pletnick, superintendent of Dysart Unified School District 89 in Surprise, Arizona, was elected president of AASA for 2016-17.

The 2016 Arizona Superintendent of the Year and a member of AASA’s digital and personal learning consortia, Pletnick will focus on reshaping the national public education agenda and empowering district leaders through advocacy, networking and PD. She begins her term July 1.

Literacy changes taking hold in schools recognize the subject’s expansion from traditional textbooks to online readings, images and audio. New learning standards ask students to read more closely and write more analytically, meaning teachers must adapt curriculum to get students reading earlier.

Tennessee district sees dramatic achievement gains by engaging Thrive™ Math

Upon receiving a special School Improvement Grant to implement a Tennessee-approved turnaround model in 2013, leaders for Shelby County Schools in Memphis selected seven sites to transform. These schools, designated by the district as i-Zone schools, fall in the bottom 5 percent in the state. Douglass K8 Optional School is one of the selected schools.

Meria Carstarphen came to lead Atlanta’s troubled school system in 2014 after 20 years of experience in education in districts in Texas, Minnesota and Washington, D.C.

Meria Carstarphen is a team player—literally. She has played football in the hot summer sun alongside varsity players at Atlanta Public Schools. The district superintendent also gives her personal cell phone number to staff and students alike. They can text her or call her—any time. In addition, they follow each other on Twitter.

Students from Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida meet with the state’s Million Women Mentors chair, second from right, and use an online program to explore STEM careers.

Adding project-based learning and mentoring opportunities to STEM programs may better ensure that female students do not get left behind. In the United States, women hold fewer than 25 percent of jobs in STEM fields, despite accounting for 47 percent of the workforce

A school in Georgia made national headlines when parents opposed using yoga to help students relieve stress and increase focus. They said it promotes a Far East religion, though many practitioners disagree with that view.

Cathy Boshamer is the director of special services for Spartanburg District 5 in South Carolina.

The Office of Special Education Programs revised its accountability operation in 2014 to shift the balance from a system focused on compliance to one that emphasizes results. The new framework has been a breath of fresh air, especially for those of us working in special education.

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