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Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside ISD in San Antonio, serves on a regional truancy committee. His district hit a record 96 percent attendanc last school year.

District leaders across the country are broadening and personalizing their approaches to attendance because the old way of sending truants and their families to court often fails to bring students back to school.

Grand View Elementary School in California’s Manhattan Beach USD has cut its trash from 30 bags a day to two, reducing the number of garbage pickups and saving $4,700 a year.

One student generates about five pounds of waste in 180 days from simply drinking a carton of milk each day of the school year, according to the Carton Council, a national industry-sponsored recycling organization. Add in glue bottles, old test papers and leftover lunch, and it’s no wonder schools are looking for ways to reduce both the amount of waste filling trash bins and the money spent to have it hauled away.

A Missouri district is actively looking for warning signs of truancy.

Teachers and other educators in Liberty Public Schools are asked to take quick action if, for instance, a student has stopped participating or has become withdrawn in class, says Jim Hammen, director of student services for the 12,000-student district north of Kansas City.

Mia Dubosarsky, director of PD at The STEM Education Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, helps teachers teach science.

From designing more creative and flexible science classrooms to developing community service projects that engage girls in STEM, this year’s National Science Teachers Association conference in March is all about K12 students connecting learning to the real world. Implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and an accompanying push for hands-on learning is bringing new ways to think about integrating science—and scientific thinking—into everyday experiences.

Kaya Henderson, chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools, says college and career preparation will become a priority.

Kaya Henderson

Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools

Topic: College & career readiness

Trend: Preparing our children for the high expectations of college and the future workforce requires us to completely re-imagine high school. The old model is not going to cut it anymore. Through a competency-based approach to learning, students will graduate high school with a mastery of core subjects, deep experience solving real-world problems, and ready to succeed throughout life.

Three-quarters of respondents to a DA survey reported some degree of construction plans for the coming year. (Click to enlarge)

The encouraging sounds of construction will be heard at many schools in 2015 as districts are finding the funding to build new facilities and to give facelifts to aging campuses, according to a DA survey of K12 leaders.

Three-quarters of respondents have construction plans for the coming year, with 40 percent expecting to launch building or renovation projects. About a third of the respondents, 34 percent, said they have plans to repair or replace infrastructure.

Three quarters of respondents to a DA survey said funding for their district would increase or stay the same in 2015. (Click to enlarge graphic)

Navigating turbulent waters of uncertain budgets, district leaders have a great challenge: Answer the growing push for accountability and heightened community expectations in 2015.

School districts will make their biggest tech investments in tablets and WiFi in 2015. (Click to enlarge chart)

Computing devices embedded in jewelry and glasses. Microchips tattooed into skin and sewn into clothing. In one form or another, devices that gather data without any help from the user will slowly infiltrate districts in 2015. In fact, the number of people with a wearable computing device will more than triple this year.

When it comes to instruction, new learning standards like the Common Core and technology will get the most attention in 2015. (Click to enlarge chart)

Exciting advancements are on the horizon for classrooms in 2015. While they sound technical, the biggest changes aren’t going to be driven by an app, a computer program or a new kind of tablet—they will come from new theories about how to engage both students and teachers in the classroom.

Common Core supporter Sonja Santelises, a vice president at the Education Trust, says political uncertainty over the standards could destabilize classrooms.

Praised and pilloried at both ends of the political spectrum, the Common Core State Standards—and the years-long effort to establish national benchmarks for student learning—will pass a crucial milestone in 2015, when 11.5 million American schoolchildren finally tackle Common Core-linked math and English tests.