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A high school student in North Carolina's Newton-Conover City Schools won a grant to purchase a 3D printer, and built a mechanical hand for a student with limited mobility.

Superintendent David Stegall of Newton-Conover City Schools in North Carolina had a simple idea two years ago: The fees collected when community groups rent district facilities—instead of going to the general fund—could be given to students and staff to develop innovative programs.

The Innovative Grant program launched last spring. In its first year, students, teachers, parents and community members were awarded between $500 and $1,500 to bring a variety of projects to life.

Lisa Gonzales is superintendent of the Portola Valley School District in California and vice president of Legislative Action for the Association of California School Administrators.

When I tell colleagues that our district is in its second year of a transition to project-based learning (PBL) districtwide, only a few questions emerge.

Years ago, I would have expected “What is PBL?” Now there are many districts in our region who have opted for the structured approach, led by the Buck Institute for Education.

In "The Teaching Brain," Vanessa Rodriguez and her co-author separate teaching from the learning process.

In The Teaching Brain: An Evolutionary Trait at the Heart of Education, Vanessa Rodriguez and co-author Michelle Fitzpatrick go to the intersection of education, neuroscience and daily experience to explore how the mind of a teacher works, and more important, how it can be made more effective.

A Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School planes wood pieces for a toolbox and stonecutting. Hands-on projects like this prepare students for later study in the trades as they relate to preservation.
a historic-structures mason at the National Park Service’s Historic Architecture Conservation & Engineering Center instructs students in the trades.
A student in the “Introduction to Historic Preservation” class.
Students are introduced to masonry through stonecutting demos in the freshman “Introduction to Historic Preservation” class.
Field experiences for students include walking tours of New York City. Above, a teacher at Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School explains landscaping decisions in a local park.

New York City students are getting a taste of carpentry and other trades through a partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) focused on refurbishing historical buildings.

Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar challenged NPS’ New York regional department about five years ago to gather ideas to increase involvement with local communities that were not engaged with urban national park sites.

Paula Love, the “Funding Doctor,” brings decades of experience to developing grant strategies for state and local educational agencies, schools and institutions.

Gaps in high school graduation rates are narrowing. National Center for Education Statistics data shows that nearly every racial and ethnic subgroup has seen a growth in graduation rates.

President Barack Obama’s proposed FY16 budget invests in programs that have improved student outcomes. Some highlights that will provide more funds for college-and-career readiness include:

Superintendent Debbi C. Burdick has brought her Arizona district's state ranking up to fifth out of 227.

Immersing students at Cave Creek USD with foreign language catapulted them above state average test scores. Superintendent Debbi C. Burdick and the governing board launched a world language program that included Spanish and Chinese programs beginning in elementary school.

Teachers from Teachers College, Columbia University's new program visit nations like Colombia and then build capstone projects to bring their global learning back to U.S. classrooms.

Students join African drum circles in Virginia, debate immigration in the Bronx and participate in overseas book clubs in Minneapolis and Philadelphia. Teachers have brought these activities and others to their classrooms from a growing number of globally-focused teacher prep and professional development programs.

New York City Public Schools will become the first large urban district to observe two major Muslim holy days in the academic calendar. The move has sparked other ethnic and religious groups to fight for recognition of their respective holidays.

A Champions of Wayne student receives her award for reaching an academic goal at a large ceremony at the end of the year.

A mentorship program’s $200 incentive for academic achievement is successfully motivating students in a district located in the heart of the declining automotive industry. "Champions of Wayne" was created by a school psychologist who mentored a handful of students and engraved their names on a four-foot trophy if they achieved an academic goal.

Youths take advantage of anonymous apps like Yik Yak may not always be aware of the potential consequences.

Parents have taken over Facebook and, to a lesser extent, Twitter. This has sent device-laden students flocking to social media apps such as Instagram, SnapChat and Yik Yak, and the shift has created new challenges for administrators trying to root out cyberbullying and threats of violence.

When 11 former Atlanta Public Schools educators were convicted in March of racketeering for altering student standardized test scores in a systemic cheating scandal uncovered six years ago, it left many shocked and others concerned about the tests themselves.

State investigators concluded that cheating had occurred in at least 44 schools, with nearly 180 employees accused of fixing students’ incorrect answers and inflating test scores.

Katy ISD superintendent Alton L. Frailey was elected 2015-16 president-elect of AASA.

Alton L. Frailey, superintendent of Katy ISD in Texas and president of the Texas Association of School Administrators, was elected 2015-16 president-elect of AASA, and will begin his post in July.

Frailey became Katy ISD chief in 2007, after previously serving as chief of DeSoto ISD in Texas and Cincinnati Public Schools. “AASA champions the efforts to improve the lives” of public school children, Frailey says. “I look forward to advancing the mission in my new role.”

A snake is the centerpiece of a lesson at the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston. It’s a program of Expeditionary Learning, a non-profit that partners with district public schools and charters providing innovative curriculum and teacher-created resources.
Students at the World of Inquiry School #58 in Rochester, New York, work on a science experiment as teacher Chris Widmaier oversees the project. The education program of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation provides grants to fund this kind of deeper learning in schools nationwide. The program aims to increase economic opportunity and civic engagement in a changing world.
At the Richland School District in South Carolina, elementary students build and use engineer skills for different projects.
Envision Academy students at Oakland USD show off their art projects. This is another program made possible with a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

When four South Carolina districts joined forces in 2013 to compete for a federal Race to the Top grant, their shared educational vision was clear: Teach students to be creative innovators and independent learners. The challenge was finding a model to encompass all the sweeping changes they wanted to implement.

Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Schools board and Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks, on right, work together to gain trust.

Although a strong partnership between school board and superintendent is widely seen as crucial to district success, administrators and the non-educators filling board seats do not always receive training in how a disparate group of individuals becomes an effective team.

Landlines are out and internet-based phones are in for many schools this year, as the modernized E-rate program begins scaling back funds for traditional phone service.

Discount rates for long-distance calling, cell phones and other services will drop by 20 percent every year starting this year, as determined in the July 2014 E-rate Modernization Order adopted by the FCC. E-rate funds for email, web hosting, paging and phone directory assistance were completely eliminated this year.