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Articles: Teaching & Learning

11/2011 to 01/2012

Continuous training is vital to the success of any district information technology plan, because, unlike large corporations, districts don’t have specialized information technology personnel, says Dwayne Alton, director of information technology support at Lee County Public Schools in Florida.

Making the most out of fewer resources is a mantra recited by nearly every school district these days. So when Vickie Hallock, supervisor of elementary education at the Penn Manor (Pa.) School District, realized there would be a shortage of physical education teachers at the elementary level this school year, she saw it as an opportunity to introduce a new 21st-century skills course.

In the burgeoning suburb of Olathe, Kan.,20 miles south of Kansas City, the state’s second-largest school district is becoming a showcase for career-based, hands-on learning that transcends traditional ideas of career technical education (CTE).

  • Lead from the top, suggests Hamilton City (Ohio) School District Superintendent Janet Baker, who continues the tradition of holding district science fairs. "I think the expectations for anything you want done have to start at the board and superintendent level," Baker suggests.
  • Look for ways that the skills involved in creating science projects match state standards in science, math and even language arts. (With language arts standards in mind, Hamilton City requires sixth-graders to include a research paper with their mandatory science exhibits.)

After more than a decade of writing about educational accountability, I have come to a conclusion that we can't wait for Washington, or for that matter, any state capital, to get accountability right. The most innovative models for educational accountability will happen in districts that are willing to say to the president and secretary of education, "We do not fear accountability. In fact, we will be more accountable than any federal or state program has ever required. We will report not only our test scores, but we will also report on the other 90 percent of the work we have been doing.


The Rio Grande City Consolidated (Texas) Independent School District is located in Starr County, a poverty-stricken area that has a history of high death rates from diabetes. Located on the Mexican border, RGCCISD serves a 99 percent Hispanic population on 14 campuses. Of the nearly 10,800 students, 88 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. On top of that, Texas is ranked worst in the nation for health care coverage, with 26 percent of residents lacking insurance.

For at-risk students who stand little chance of going to college, or even finishing high school, a growing number of districts have found a solution: Give them an early start in college while they still are in high school. An early college high school (ECHS) strategy, which combines high school and college-level instruction, reduces dropout rates and improves academic achievement levels while also boosting students' chances of graduating from school and finding jobs.

Enrolling in college was not part of the path for graduates of the San Antonio (Texas) Independent School District, where 93 percent of students are economically disadvantaged. Shortly after Superintendent Robert Duron, known for raising achievement in the Socorro ISD in El Paso, arrived in 2006, he began to raise the bar in this 55,000-student, predominantly Hispanic, urban district.

Celina (Texas) Independent School District, roughly 100 miles north of Dallas, has 2,000 students across its four school campuses—and they're all Bobcats, says Lizzy Kloiber, secondary curriculum director, referring to the district's unifying mascot. The community is tight knit, she adds, with most teachers having grown up in the district, and families regularly mingle at church or at high school football games each weekend.

As states now begin their transition to the Common Core State Standards, seven organizations have united to provide advice on issues related to the implementations of the mathematics curriculum and assessments.

Nationally, health-care costs are rising roughly 10 percent each year. Costs at the School District of Manatee County (Fla.), however, are rising at a mere 1 percent since the district implemented an employee wellness program, dubbed HealthVantage, three years ago. Since the wellness program took root, the district has saved nearly 14 percent on health-care costs compared to other districts and $1.3 million for medical and prescription services during the first half of 2010 compared to 2009.

Northeast Yucai Oxford International High School, a first-of-its-kind public school, opened its doors in Shenyang, China, this fall. The school, a joint partnership between Oxford (Mich.) Community Schools and Northeast Yucai Education Group in Shenyang, allows American and Chinese high school students to attend and earn dual degrees for each country.

Solve for x. While many of us first encountered this enigmatic instruction in high school, the last 20 years have seen a strong push to get students to take algebra in eighth grade or even before. Today, concerns about the economy highlight a familiar worry: American eighth-graders trailed their peers in five Asian countries on the 2007 TIMSS mathematics assessment, and American fourth-graders were outperformed by students from eight other countries, including England, Latvia and Kazakhstan.

For more than half a century, the annual science fair has been a fixture in many a school's academic life, both for science teachers, who guide classes through the hands-on experience of researching topics of interest, and for students, who often hectically put the finishing touches on their work the night before it is exhibited in the school gym or other public space. From there, winning submissions can advance to district or regional science fairs and—with enough scientific know-how and inspiration, as well as school and parental support—to national science competitions.