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A homeschool student in Kyrene School District shows off art she created via Community Assisted Schooling Alternatives, a weekly enrichment program for K6 students.

Driven by a commitment to serve all students, or by a desire to maximize state funding, some districts are offering families that educate their children at home everything from free computers to curricular guidance.

Two students at the Shaker Heights City School District help tend to their high school garden project—part outdoor learning lab and part “market” for their school lunches.

Students ease stress with stretches in elementary school yoga sessions. In another district, students taste vegetables they’ve never tried before after growing produce in a school garden. Elsewhere, more students eat healthy breakfasts they’ve grabbed from convenient to-go carts in the morning. This kind of innovation is evident across the country, as district leaders find new ways to promote health and wellness.

Students at Thurgood Marshall High School in San Francisco USD celebrate Gay-Straight Alliance Day to promote a positive climate for transgender students.

As transgender students win sturdier legal protections from state and federal laws, more district leaders have given members of this growing population rights to choose the names they’ll respond to at roll call, which bathrooms they’ll use and which athletic teams they’ll join.

The U.S. public school system’s focus on struggling students leaves high-achievers—especially minorities, the economically disadvantaged and English-language learners —without a challenging enough education, experts say.

Students at Cherokee County School District use Pearson’s WriteToLearn to help them become better writers.

As Common Core standards require students to write extensively across the curriculum, more districts are using automated assessment tools to save teachers time and give students immediate analysis.

Giving students a chance to practice academic English can be a part of any subject lesson, she says. And that’s where ESL instructors can play an important role by becoming peer coaches for classroom teachers, says John Segota, TESOL’s associate executive director for public policy.

The biggest changes in reading instruction center on embedding literacy across all subjects. Engineering concepts, for example, can be used to break down the plots of stories and analyze characters. And ESL specialists should collaborate with subject teachers to align instruction so students are learning the same words and concepts.

A living, breathing teacher is the best tool to assess a written essay.

However, DA found a few tools that can do almost the same job, pointing out narrative, organization and purpose of an essay. We used an authentic essay that a fifth-grade girl in Connecticut wrote about her very big mastiff dog named Bam Bam.

And two tools, PEG Writing and ETS’ E-Rater, were able to assess the same essay separately.

Here is the original essay:

BamBam by Tess A.

Once upon a time their was a little dog. His name was BamBam.

Birmingham Public Schools use ETS’ Criterion as a learning and teaching tool. Students get immediate feedback on grammar and mechanics, as well as links to exemplary writing with detailed techniques to improve.

Some vendors have developed tech tools that will solve the challenges of teaching and assessing student writing effectively. We asked several experts to share their thoughts about writing assessment concerns and how administrators can address those issues. Here’s what they had to say:

Students in Port Angeles School District in Washington get a taste of the real world of science from their local river. For the past 10 years, they have been working like true scientists collecting and analyzing data gathered from the Elwha River in nearby Olympic National Park near the Pacific coast.

Tom Wohlleber, assistant superintendent for business services for Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District, leads a safety session with administrators and teachers.

A “culture of safety”—at all levels of a district—is the first and most critical step in dealing with occupational injury. It also guides the prevention of, response to and mitigation of hazards in the workplace, including staff behavior.

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