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A camper at Pittsburgh Public Schools' Camp University Prep learns how to use a pottery wheel.

Whether school administrators are braving a hard winter, cheering on their school basketball teams or focusing on end-of-year assessments, summer vacation could seem like a long way off. But for many districts planning for summer school, the months of June and July are closer than they seem.

is Van Roekel speaks at a recent conference, sponsored by the Education Writers Association and held at the University of Chicago, about teacher evaluations. Next to him, from his left are:

Changing state laws and the rise of evaluations have given administrators more flexibility in removing tenured teachers, a task that had long been nearly impossible. More states are tying student achievement to teacher evaluations and renegotiating contracts.

Ingenium Charter School students, like this one shown, set goals for their own personalized learning.

Personalized learning is beginning to produce positive results in student achievement as it becomes more established in districts nationwide. These success stories are encouraging more districts to adopt the tech-heavy learning model that’s designed to customize education for each student.

A recent laptop rollout program gives all students n the Lindsay USD in California access the internet for 24/7 learning.

Those who have made the transition from teacher-led instruction to student-driven education say it is a difficult process. Here is some guidance from school administrators and other experts in the personalized learning community.

To develop the skills necessary to be effective in the evolving environment of today’s schools, principals have several places to turn. Here are some ideas:

Summer programs for students in the Kashunamiut School District in western Alaska connect reading and math with native Alaskan culture.

Despite mounting evidence that summer programs drive student achievement, making ends meet is another matter.

In 2011, there were 13,000 students in the Santa Ana Unified School District’s new summer program, but its federal grant ran out, leaving the district to cull funding from its Title I and Title III (for ELL students) funding. And it forced Chief Academic Officer Michelle Rodriguez to reduce the number of summer students by almost 5,000.

In the Portland Public Schools in Maine, administrators depend each year on renewed foundation funding.

The National Education Association (NEA) has taken the position that teachers should be held accountable for providing high-quality classroom instruction. To avoid drawn-out legal battles, districts also should have a cost-effective, efficient system in place if someone has to be dismissed, the group states.

Energy specialists for the Tulsa Public Schools inspect an air-cooled chiller during one of their daily energy audits of facilities throughout the district.

Focusing on energy management can bring large savings to a district. From using special software to enlisting the help of outside advising firms, district leaders can leverage tools and best practices to manage their energy consumption and thereby reduce costs.

Here are nine tips and tricks from district leaders and energy experts for controlling energy costs in your district:

Fourth grade teacher Joan Meehan works with student Erica Moye. Meehan had the same students in third grade and says they’re making progress.

Crowds of students who’d left their classes without permission used to prowl the halls of the K8 Clemente Leadership Academy in New Haven, Conn. Students fought, used profanities and verbally abused staff. Teachers spent more time on discipline than instruction. Clemente, long known as a place to send troubled students, sunk under the weight of low expectations to become one of New Haven’s lowest-performing schools.

Students at Lewis and Clark High School in the Vancouver, Wash., work in small groups as part of their typical school day. 

School administrators overwhelmed by the idea of blended learning need not fear: many districts have successfully implemented one of four models now widely accepted in K12 education. Even more encouraging, some of these schools are seeing increased achievement, lower dropout rates, and other positive results.