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Articles: Teaching & Learning

Cross-cutting career and college readiness skills and thinking behaviors. (Click to enlarge)

Education and business stakeholders continue to call for more rigorous curricula, instruction and assessments in order to adequately prepare students for the demands of the 21st century.

But even if implemented well, does the Common Core fully capture the knowledge and skills students will need to succeed in college, the workplace and life? And what do tougher academics and more challenging courses really require of schools in terms of how best to support the diversity of student populations?

Some Jennings School District students play the violin and viola—using music to help them make connections in core subjects of math, science and language arts. The students above rehearse for their district gala recently.

When students in music class at Jennings School District in Missouri started taking violin lessons, they would show when they were frustrated. After a year of playing beautiful music, the students wait a beat, and calm down, instead of acting out. With troubled schools where standardized test scores are abysmal, absenteeism runs rampant and aspirations of breaking out of poverty feel like a pipe dream, the district in urban St. Louis County has the look and attitude of a feisty kid that wants to overcome the long odds for success.

New federal rules  cap the amount of fat, sodium, sugar and calories in food available in schools.

As of July 1, students will have a harder time getting their hands on junk food in public schools, as stricter standards raise the nutritional value of what’s available in cafeterias, campus stores, snack bars and vending machines.

The Whole Schools Initiative's arts program is helping drive up test scores in Mississippi schools.

The arts are driving up test scores and closing achievement gaps in more than 30 Mississippi schools that are blending music, theater, visual art and dance into core subjects.

At the May Center School for Autism and Developmental Disabilities in Randolph, Mass., individualized classroom activities emphasize all areas of a student’s development, including communication and social skills.

Autism rates soared by nearly 30 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to an April study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one in 68 eight-year-olds was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2010—a rate that has more than doubled since the year 2000, when 1 in 150 children were identified.

Math teachers from Kings Canyon Middle School in the Fresno USD take content they have learned in PD and develop lessons together. They also study the Math Design Collaborative Formative Assessment Lesson to prepare for delivering it in the classroom.

Over the past two years, elementary teachers in Weston Public Schools in Connecticut have been learning to implement Singapore Math, a highly regarded program that delves deeply into concepts ranging from understanding numbers and length to rounding and adding fractions.

Weston’s three-day summer institute for high school educators is focused on teaching writing in science, history and social science classes.

At the Fresno USD, which uses coaches to help their peers, math teachers at Tenaya Middle School take content they learned and develop lessons together.

As school district leaders prepare teachers for the Common Core state standards, peer coaching has emerged as a powerful tool.

“In order for change to reach the classroom level, teachers really need to be the leaders for the Common Core,” says the Tennessee DOE’s Tiffany McDole.

Large expanses of glass provide a connection between indoor and outdoor learning areas and offer plenty of natural light throughout the Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet Campus.
Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet Campus has 10 wind turbines.
The 250,000 square-foot Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet Campus will eventually enroll 1,500 students.
Flexible learning environments are configured for traditional instruction, group or individual study as the need arises.
 Group study areas feature work surfaces with storage underneath, offering more natural light and unobstructed views to the park site.
The student commons is the heart of the school, connecting its three learning communities. It is used for assembly, dining and group study.
The school was built on an abandoned park, where forgotten cars rusted. Today, the natural envioronment provides a rare rural escape for many of the urban students.

The largest school infrastructure project in Connecticut history is nearing its one-year anniversary. The Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet Campus in Bridgeport, Conn., was completed last August for $126 million and is the state’s most environmentally friendly school.

NAO robot has become a virtual classmate for students on the autism spectrum in New York City’s special education District 75.

Robots are opening new channels of communication for students on the autism spectrum or those with other disabilities. Educators at New York City’s special education District 75 say the NAO robot—a bright-eyed, two-foot-tall humanoid developed by Aldebaran Robotics—is now considered a virtual classmate by some students.

Stuients at El Monte Union High School District in California benefit from AP programs, which just earned College Board recognition this year.

Careful use of data can guide school administrators as they deploy limited resources to promote college readiness for all students.

Joseph Moylan, principal of Oconomowoc High School in Wisconsin, meets with students interested in AP and IB programs at the school. He calls IB’s more narrow-but-deeper approach the gold standard for college prep.

Fueled by a growing consensus that students need post-secondary degrees to compete in the world economy, participation in the 58-year-old Advanced Placement program, once reserved for a small band of elite achievers, has doubled in size over the past decade. The much smaller International Baccalaureate program has also grown steadily.

A senior in the biotechnology program at Miami Valley Career Technology Center is is pursuing a college education in chemical engineering.
Miami Valley Career Technology Center in Ohio offers an aviation maintenance program as well as precision machining and HVAC.
The New Castle County Vocational Technical School District offers a Building Automation Systems program. Above, students at Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington, Del., work in a lab. The unique program has 40 business partners that help connect students with job shadows and equipment.
A culinary arts junior learns knife skills with an instructor at Miami Valley Career Technology Center.

Students in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County Public School System learn to make drones in a career technology class developed with a local engineering company. At Mississippi’s Ocean Springs High School, students in the robotics and engineering program design about 40 robots. Tempe Union High School District in Arizona has created living labs in solar thermal, fuel cell and other types of power.

Anoka-Hennepin district students in the seventh-grade technology education class.

In suburban Minneapolis, seventh graders will soon start building skills for local technical jobs that may be open to them when they finish school.

At POLYTECH High School, Delaware students take an EMT training course, something that was recently added because the region needed more EMTs.

Delaware’s New Castle County Vocational Technical School District offers 41 career programs in four technical high schools. And while some programs are in cutting-edge fields, like biotechnology, robotics and athletic health care, many are the same programs that have been offered for decades.

Lance Menster is Houston ISD’s assistant superintendent of professional support and development.

Differentiating instruction to meet individual students’ needs is one of the biggest challenges for any teacher. In the same way, differentiating professional development to meet the needs of individual teachers is one of the biggest challenges for any school district.