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Students attending an Internationals Network-supported school learn English language skills.

Despite fewer unaccompanied minors arriving from Central America, many U.S. K12 schools still struggle to adapt to the challenges of educating this diverse set of immigrant students.

During the 2014 fiscal year, the Department of Homeland Security reported that 57,496 unaccompanied minors arrived in the United States. In the first eight months of fiscal year 2015, the number dropped to fewer than 18,000.

A staff member and students in the Upper Moreland Township School District in Pennsylvania take a walk as part of the intermediate school wellness initiative. The program keeps all staff motivated to be fit and healthy.

Districts are getting creative in how they address the need to rein in costs and still provide employees with good benefits. They can’t resolve some issues, such as the definition of a full-time employee (the Affordable Care Act uses 30 hours). But unconventional thinking is yielding ideas that other districts can learn from.

Albemarle County Public Schools removed hundreds of high school lockers and replaced them with benches for students to charge mobile devices.

One central Virginia high school replaced hundreds of lockers with device charging stations this fall to bolster its 1-to-1 program.

Students from a pilot school, Cowan Fundamental Elementary in Sacramento, California, examine hungry pests. (Photo: Amy Karle)

A new curriculum released by the USDA teaches middle school students about the most dangerous invasive species threatening the nation’s trees, plants and crops.

Available this fall, “Hungry Pests Invade Middle School” is the first curriculum created by the USDA that focuses on all 18 species, including the khapra beetle, the Mediterranean fruit fly and the Asian longhorned beetle.

Brevard Public Schools changed principal PD in 2014-15 to focus intensively on building principals’ skills working with teachers in the modern classroom.

Some say that for principals, every day is their first day on the job. Alongside day-to-day building management issues such as hiring teachers, overseeing finances and student discipline, principals now guide teachers through new state standards and testing.

Chrys Sweeting is assistant superintendent and Tim Yeomans is superintendent of the Puyallup School District in Washington.

Following a change in leadership in the Puyallup School District during the summer of 2012, we committed to align the work of the district with professional learning for leaders and staff to serve each student.

Working with the board of directors, “Improvement of Instruction, Student Growth and Achievement” became the central focus of the district, supported by three commitments.

Environmental education is not just a walk in the woods anymore. It’s a project-based walk in the woods with an iPad. And the learning goals span the curriculum, from STEM to social studies to language arts.

Psychologists from Ardsley Union Free School District in New York use behavioral therapy for students who injure themselves.

Emergency room visits for self-inflicted injuries in adolescents have risen significantly since 2009, according to a study in July Pediatrics. Schools looking to curb this behavior have turned to new mental health programs that focus on navigating stress and emotional regulation.

A physical education program that brings commercial-grade fitness equipment to under-resourced schools—along with a curriculum based on boosting confidence and fun—dramatically increases students’ performance on California’s standardized physical fitness test, according to a UCLA study titled “Targeting the Body and the Mind: Evaluation of a P.E. Curriculum Intervention for Adolescents.”

Former New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott

Former New York City Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott was appointed by the state in August to lead a team studying the troubled East Ramapo Central School District in New York. Last fall, a state investigation found that the district’s school board members diverted money from public schools to children attending private religious institutions, leaving the district in financial trouble.

Walcott’s team will study the district’s operations and offer recommendations to the school board.

Testing companies find themselves competing on a tougher playing field for state assessment contracts after a rocky first round of Common Core exams spurred new expectations from state and district education leaders.

In the past year, Pearson has lost testing contracts in Florida (to American Institutes for Research, or AIR), Texas (to Educational Testing Service, or ETS), Ohio (to AIR), and, most recently, New York (to Questar Assessment Inc.), according to each state’s department of education.

Ken Robinson proposes a transformation of the nation’s schools from an outmoded industrial system to a highly personalized, organic model.

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education

Viking

Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader on creativity and human potential, proposes a transformation of the nation’s schools from an outmoded industrial system to a highly personalized, organic model.

Microsoft’s new Windows 10 operating system arrived in late July free, for one year, to schools and other customers running copies of Windows 7 or later. By the end of August, it had been installed on 75 million devices worldwide.

Windows 10 joins an ever-changing mix of Apple, Android and Microsoft devices and operating systems found in U.S. school districts.

Combating a $1.1 billion deficit, Chicago Public Schools’ new budget proposal phases out district pension contributions for central office, regional and non-union support staff. The district says the change will save about $11 million annually once fully implemented in 2018.

A state-mandated $676 million pension contribution accounts for a large chunk of the deficit, district officials say. Unlike most other districts in Illinois, Chicago and its local taxpayers are required to pay 7 percent of the 9 percent pension contribution for all employees.

The Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium Standards (ISLLC) are now available. The seven standards, redrafted after the public comment period ended last fall, identify areas that school leaders should be able to demonstrate competency. An initiative of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the final versions yield some significant changes in wording, but the spirit of the draft is largely upheld.

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