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District Profile

El Paso Independent School District (EPISD ) is the tenth-largest district in Texas and one of two in the city of El Paso, along with Ysleta ISD . At the start of the 21st century, the urban district was struggling. Scores on the 2003-2004 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) were disappointing, with 72 percent of students meeting the state standards for reading, 56 percent for math, and 53 percent for science, while just 50 percent of students passed all TAKS tests, some of the lowest scores of any urban district in the state.

Boston schools are getting a little help for challenged students. In 2009, the latest year for which figures are available, 76 percent of all students qualified to receive free or reduced-price lunches. Although poverty is a proven factor in reducing student achievement, Boston Public Schools is seeing the results of City Connects (CCNX)—its intervention, prevention and enrichment program that, for a decade, has worked with teachers to pair students with community-based services to help students better engage and thrive in school.

Neil Leist is fond of saying that his office, filled with perfectly usable repurposed goods, is a snapshot of the money-saving mission he has pursued in the four years since he became superintendent of rural Clermont Northeastern Schools (CNE), east of Cincinnati.

"My desk is from a federal building in downtown Cincinnati, which shut down," explains Leist. "My computer, fax machine and copier are from a closed Ford plant. My desk and chairs are from a facility shut down by the Ohio Department of Education. My filing cabinets are from the Social Security office in Batavia."

Having loved libraries since she was a child, Deputy Superintendent Mary Kolek of New Canaan (Conn.) Public Schools was truly happy when the staff of the New Canaan High School Library Media Center won the 2010 National School Library Program of the Year Award, presented by the American Association of School Librarians. "Everything that our library media center is producing," she says, "is reflective of what we're trying to do as a district: create critical thinkers, problem solvers, creative collaborators."

More than 80 percent of El Paso's 700,000 residents identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino. The Texas city has a preponderance of schoolchildren with a command of both Spanish and English.

High creeks, prickly pear cacti, and dry live oaks dot the central Texas land around the Round Rock Independent School District. Diverse, sprawling and growing rapidly, the district comprises 48 campuses across 110 square miles. Administrators credit a business-inspired, total-cost-of-ownership, technology standardization program with their ability to keep pace with student needs.

Anyone who doubts that adjusting thermostats or turning off computers can make much of a dent in utility bills should have a chat with administrators of the Council Rock School District in Bucks County, Pa. In the past four years, thanks to comprehensive policies and procedures, CRSD has cut energy usage by nearly 50 percent and achieved more than $9 million in total savings. The 12,000- student district has been honored for its practices with federal EPA-sponsored Energy Star awards three years in a row.

In an impoverished corner of Phoenix, just north of Sky Harbor International Airport, the first school district in Arizona to adopt a 200-day calendar is reporting impressive academic improvements after only one year.

"In our district, every four years we lose 45 percent of our students, Mr. Chairman," Western Heights (Okla.) Public Schools superintendent Joe Kitchens testified in April before a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor hearing entitled "How Data Can Be Used to Inform Educational Outcomes." "We have to do something about this. We have to retool America's schools to deal with this issue of mobility," he urged the committee. Over the past five years, Kitchens and the administration of Western Heights have done just that.

The best place to raise a child in Arkansas, according to Bloomberg Businessweek, is Springdale, a bustling community with a strong agrarian heritage in the northwest corner of the state. The headquarters of massive corporations such as Tyson Foods, Wal-Mart and J.B. Hunt Transport are based in or near town, fueling a recent economic boom that has brought the region new schools, recreational facilities and housing. Last year, the Springdale School District became the second largest in Arkansas, with more than 18,000 students—double its size in 1995.