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student achievement

The Whittier Union High School District administrators who organized the Whatever It Takes campaign.

In 1969, a concern with the deep inequity of students’ experiences and opportunities in traditional school systems first drove social studies teacher Rick DuFour to begin advocating for the kind of reforms that would jell into his transformative model, Professional Learning Communities at Work, some 16 years later. The core belief of the PLC at Work model—that all students should have access to the most rigorous curriculum and that all students should learn, was counter to common practices in the era when DuFour taught.


Veteran Superintendent Paul Vallas is onto the next big thing.

One year ago, John Covington, the former superintendent of Kansas City (Mo.) Public Schools, became the chancellor of a new organization in Michigan. The new state agency, the Michigan Education Achievement Authority (EAA), will operate the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in Michigan, 38 of which are in the city of Detroit. Covington was brought in by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder because of his success in urban districts and track record for finding creative and innovative solutions.

graduation, communities in school

At last, K12 educators can see the results of money well spent. Community in Schools, a nonprofit organization that serves nearly 1.3 million students in 3,400 schools, not only increases high school graduation rates, but also creates more than $11 of economic benefit for a community for every dollar invested in CIS, according to an analysis released in May by EMSI, an economic modeling firm. The organization currently boasts an 87 percent nationwide graduation rate.

Portfolio Strategy

When Andres Alonso joined Baltimore City (Md.) Public Schools in 2007, he wasted no time in implementing the Portfolio Strategy. The district had over 80,000 students, 91 percent of which were minority and 82 percent were low-income. Baltimore City had been plagued by low test scores and a widening achievement gap for years, and Alonso sought out this multi-tiered approach as a resolution.

Create CA arts

“Everyone likes the arts—people like the idea—but public support doesn’t equal political will,” says Craig Cheslog, principal advisor to Tom Torlakson, California’s superintendent of public instruction. For this reason, Cheslog, along with other California officials, including Gov. Jerry Brown, and organizations such as the California Arts Council, have joined together to form Create CA, an initiative to make arts education a priority.

Next school year, teachers will use diary maps to update their lessons based on student success.

About 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis, Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation, or RBBCSC, comprised of 3,000 students and 200 teachers, has struggled to update its curricula year after year. This was an especially tedious project last summer when the suburban district aligned their English language arts and math curricula to the Common Core State Standards and Indiana’s state standards. Teachers spent hours creating curriculum binders that were rarely used because they cannot be updated easily.

Diane Ullman Superintendent, Simsbury (Conn.) Public Schools

Diane Ullman has been the superintendent of the Simsbury Public Schools, a nationally recognized top-performing district, since 2004. Prior to this, she served as the assistant executive director of the Capitol Region Education Council (CREC). She also served for seven years as the assistant superintendent of the Farmington (Conn.) School District.

Superintendent Jim Brown

Critics of failing systems often ask the same chicken-or-egg question: Do educators and environment cause kids to fail, or do failing students weigh down the teachers and districts around them?

Clover Ridge Elementary School

The trend of personalized learning has caught on nationwide, but the entire state of Oregon has been using a similar method—proficiency-based instruction—since 2002 when it gave districts the option to award credit for proficiency. To earn credit, students demonstrate what they know based on clear learning targets defined by state standards. Students have intervention time built into their school day to work on concepts in which they aren’t yet proficient. Once they master a concept, they move on.