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District Profile

Every few weeks, elementary students in Wilkes County (N.C.) Schools were getting tested on what they read. But the questions weren't all that difficult and students' reading levels weren't as high as administrators hoped they would be.

Last May, a first grader named Jasmine transferred to Mendota Elementary School, a K-5 school that's part of the Madison (Wis.) Metropolitan School District. She could barely read. Her parents were frustrated at her former teachers for letting their daughter fall so far behind.

McMinnville (Ore.) Public School's after-school program simply wasn't cutting it for Deborah Weiner, the school improvement coordinator who oversaw its activities. She knew they could offer more than a glorified babysitting service--if only the funds were available to pour into field trips.

For students at Newport-Mesa Unified School District, flexibility is the way of the future. In a drive to give to its students what it calls "21st century skills," the district has made a flexible high school redesign one of the centerpieces of its new five-year strategic plan. Frederick Navarro, Newport-Mesa's director of secondary curriculum and instruction, says the district is following trends in higher education toward satellite campuses, online opportunities and alternative class schedules.

Clifton Hill Elementary teacher Rebecca Harper remembers what the school was like before Jesse B. Register became Hamilton County's superintendent: unkempt buildings with no inside doors, carpeting likely laid the year Harper was born, asbestos, and a pervasive feeling of neglect.

Katrina Rivera doesn't mind the nearly three-hour, round trip bus ride from her home to Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology.