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Articles: Teaching & Learning

Luvenia Jackson knows students can’t learn when they’re in jail. During 40 years in education, the Clayton County Public Schools superintendent has seen that academic performance cannot improve systemwide under zero-tolerance discipline.

Nearly 10 percent of the 18,680 students in the South Bend Community School Corporation in north central Indiana are English language learners. With students of varying levels of proficiency spread across the district’s 33 schools, finding solutions to help students increase their skills, particularly in reading comprehension, proved difficult.

In spring 2014, leaders at the state’s Department of Education realized that Indiana’s high population of migrant students was not served as optimally as possible.

Superintendent Klint W. Willert, of Brookings School District in South Dakota, says schools will move away from high-stakes tests in 2016.

Klint W. Willert

Superintendent, Brookings School District, South Dakota

Topic: Testing & assessment

Trend: Student achievement is measured by more than a single assessment score. The trend of moving toward multiple measures, not just a test score, to determine the quality of a teacher, a school, and district will continue to resound with the voting public. People are joining a new TEA Party - Tested Enough Already.

Source: National Council on Teacher Quality (Click to enlarge)

The vast majority of states require student growth and achievement to be factored into teacher and principal evaluations.

But most states and districts are now grappling with the practical realities of implementing those policies, according to the October report “State of the States 2015: Evaluating Teaching, Leading and Learning” from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

The new year may send familiar education challenges in new directions as administrators grapple with an uncertain testing landscape, staff shortages, the increased push for equity and constantly increasing charter competition.

Experts expect education budgets in most states to remain flat in 2016. The pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should uphold the current Title I formula (aiding two-thirds of U.S. states) but reduce competitive grants.

Utah has mandated a high school financial literacy course for more than a decade. (Click to enlarge)

Half of U.S. states fail to provide adequate financial literacy education in high schools, according to a report released by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, a partnership among several financial institutions, non-profits and governmental agencies in Vermont.

In partnership with Northwestern University, Chicago Public Schools has been offering its first-ever MOOC—or massive open online course—to the district’s high school students.

The course, called “Career 911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare,” aims to introduce students to the health care job field.

Adopting new standards and testing strategies will be a priority in many classrooms in 2016.

As we head into 2016, teachers need to captivate and inspire collaboration with tools that excite students and let them express themselves. Students expect innovations that ignite learning passions that will steer them toward their future career.

Districts nationwide have more than 10 different titles for “literacy specialist."

Districts must navigate a larger number of titles and skill sets when hiring qualified literacy specialists to implement new learning standards and to improve students’ reading and writing performance.

Traditionally, a reading specialist worked in small groups or one-on-one with struggling students.

A Chicago Public Schools teacher leads a social emotional learning lesson in an elementary classroom.

Social-emotional learning programs improve the grades and behavior of all learners—but special ed students may benefit even more from lessons on mindfulness, self-regulation and cooperation, experts say.

Michael B. Horn is a distinguished fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute and an advisor to Intellus Learning. Julia Freeland Fisher is director of education research at the Clayton Christensen Institute.

Amidst the deluge of interventions—and despite noble intentions—we still lack a coherent, causal understanding of the mechanisms that can solve the achievement gap at scale. Unsurprisingly, efforts to close chronic achievement gaps continue to fall flat.

Jarriza Velasquez, a sixth-grade English/language arts and English as a second language teacher at Alex Sanger Elementary School in Dallas ISD, oversees student work. Velasquez was hired from Puerto Rico as part of the district’s ongoing bilingual teacher recruiting efforts.

Districts facing rising English language learner populations and teacher shortages have turned to Puerto Rico for quality bilingual teachers who don’t need a visa to work on the U.S. mainland. Dallas ISD, for example, hired 350 teachers from Puerto Rico for 2015-16.

Teaching students to dream high is one thing. Teaching them how to help others fly safely is something left to ambitious districts.

Joseph Renzulli is the director of the Neag Center For Creativity, Gifted Education, and Talent Development at the University of Connecticut.

Applying the pedagogy of gifted education to all classrooms can lead to total school improvement. That is the aim of my work, an enrichment-infusion process called the “schoolwide enrichment model,” or SEM.

“Curricular infusion” simply means that we do not argue with the reality of today’s standards and test-driven approaches to school improvement. Rather, we examine materials and teaching strategies that can make the prescribed curriculum more interesting and enjoyable.

Cleveland City Schools Director Martin Ringstaff saw a personalized learning opportunity in a school trip to Nicaragua.

An engineering project in a Tennessee high school grew into a mission to build an innovative dome to grow fresh food for a Central American orphanage. The adventure inspired Cleveland City Schools Director Martin Ringstaff to spread a personalized, project-based learning approach to more of his students.

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