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Magnet schools have made a big comeback in America’s education system, offering curricula that span the spectrum—from medicine to the arts to language immersion. The revitalized programs provide plenty of hands-on experience, while the academic themes are infused into traditional classes such as math and English.

Gloria Marshall Elementary School in Spring ISD in Texas has visible AC fixtures throughout the building. (Luis Ayala/US Green Building Council)

When a classroom is sweltering, nobody is productive. More and more teaching days are being lost to hot, humid weather even though there is a way to mitigate the problem: air conditioning. But the challenge is justifying the cost of installation and maintenance at a time when competition for budget money is fierce.

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.

Chart shows K12 financial literacy requirements across the nations (click to enlarge)

As today’s students find themselves deciding money matters long before adulthood, progressive districts are introducing financial literacy lessons in elementary and middle grades—with some requiring high school students to complete a personal finance program to graduate.

Students at George Armstrong Elementary School in the Chicago Public Schools get lessons about money and finance. They learn about earning income and how to play a stock market game.

As today’s students find themselves deciding money matters long before adulthood, progressive districts are introducing financial literacy lessons in elementary and middle grades—with some requiring high school students to complete a personal finance program to graduate.

Transportation may be the most complex and costly issue. But to keep homeless students from dropping out or falling too far behind in class, administrators have to tapped into federal funds and community donations to provide tutoring, school supplies, extra meals and clothing, among other necessities.

In the Bonneville Joint School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho, a Summit Hills Elementary School student, right, takes a speech/language therapy class with therapist Claire Plowgian, above.

More districts now deliver speech and occupational therapy online. It’s a solution for staffing shortages, especially in less populated areas, when therapists can provide therapy, participate in IEP meetings and handle other tasks remotely.

Students at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ Cato Middle College High School begin earning college credit in their junior year and can graduate from a 13th grade with an associate’s degree or professional certification.

Ninth graders in North Carolina take all their classes on the campus of a major state university. Early-college high school students in Connecticut can gain an inside track to one of the world’s largest tech companies. Online and blended learners in Michigan can spend a fifth year in high school and graduate with an associate’s degree.

NCTM presenter Skip Fennell, who is also a McDaniel College education professor, plays a math game with a teacher from Little River Elementary School in South Riding, Virginia, and a teacher from Mount Airy Elementary School in Maryland.

Teach students math procedures if you want them to solve equations. Instill a deep conceptual understanding of mathematics and get them thinking like mathematicians, and you’ve prepared your students to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

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