You are here

Table of Contents

District Administration, June 2016

If you are a K12 district leader you may qualify for a free subscription to the DA print magazine

Subscribe (free)

Cover Story

Educators have sometimes likened a school year to running a marathon. A balanced calendar may offer more chances to rest and refuel—enabling a strong effort in the next leg of the race.

Features

Decades ago, portfolio assessment meant finding room for bulging binders stuffed with paper. But digital technologies that make it far easier to collect, curate, share and store student work have dismantled the physical barriers that once made portfolio assessment daunting.

Educators have sometimes likened a school year to running a marathon. A balanced calendar may offer more chances to rest and refuel—enabling a strong effort in the next leg of the race.

Xenia Community Schools in Ohio faced a crisis in 2012 that forced administrators to slash $10 million from its annual budget. The district signed a five-year contract with a transportation contractor and saved $458,000. Still, such a move can be a challenging—and sometimes controversial—issue for many districts.

While detention remains a staple of student discipline across the country, many school leaders are looking at ways to modify the practice, or even replace it, with approaches that may be more effective in actually reducing bad behavior.

District CIO

Let’s face it, digital content—from the Khan Academy to streaming videos to adaptive learning applications—has enveloped K12 education. While some district leaders have only begun replacing printed learning materials with the new technology, other districts are going entirely digital.

Laws already passed in 2016 focus on data governance, transparency and leadership.

Opinion

Educators generally agree that we are testing too much. Congress’ latest action puts more authority back with the states, but this risks swinging the pendulum back too far in the other direction. To get accountability right, we need to decide which tests to keep and which to discard.

The Office of Special Education Programs revised its accountability operation in 2014 to shift the balance from a system focused on compliance to one that emphasizes results. The new framework has been a breath of fresh air, especially for those of us working in special education.

You’ve no doubt heard of the teaching approach in which students spend part of the day learning online at their own pace and part of the day receiving instruction from a classroom teacher. But there are still a number of misconceptions about what blended learning entails and how it works.

Solutions

Meria Carstarphen is a team player—literally. She has played football in the hot summer sun alongside varsity players at Atlanta Public Schools. The district superintendent also gives her personal cell phone number to staff and students alike. They can text her or call her—any time. In addition, they follow each other on Twitter.

Briefings

Adding project-based learning and mentoring opportunities to STEM programs may better ensure that female students do not get left behind. In the United States, women hold fewer than 25 percent of jobs in STEM fields, despite accounting for 47 percent of the workforce

A school in Georgia made national headlines when parents opposed using yoga to help students relieve stress and increase focus. They said it promotes a Far East religion, though many practitioners disagree with that view.

From Newark to Los Angeles, districts building affordable homes for teachers hope to better retain and recruit staff as local housing costs rise and salaries remain stagnant.

Improving relations with Cuba have renewed interest in educational travel for some U.S. schools this year, with teachers eager to show students a country on the cusp of historic changes.

Administrators, teachers and other school personnel have been ordering supplies from Amazon.com for years, but the e-tailing colossus has now jumped formally into the education procurement market. And some in the procurement business see benefits.

Customer service is not traditionally thought of as part of a district administrator’s job—but learning effective communication skills can sometimes mean the difference between retaining or losing students to charter schools, according to a new report.

On Kids Yoga Day this spring, children across the nation learned downward dog, the tree and the frog, among many other positions. One instructor says that students need just five minutes of bending and breathing to shed stress and re-focus on classroom instruction.

To ease concerns over a lack of teachers trained to teach the subject, the state has formed the Computer Science for Rhode Island initiative. That PD will cover coding, networking and other topics to which many teachers may have never been exposed.

From 2013 to 2015, reading scores dipped from 288 to 287, out of 500 total. Math scores also went down a point, from 153 to 152, out of 300. The lowest-performing students showed the biggest drop.

Fears of lead-tainted water in U.S. schools surged this year at the same time a report found the nation spends $46 billion less on annual school construction and maintenance than is necessary to ensure safe and healthy facilities.

After a shake-up in Oklahoma City Public Schools that resulted with Superintendent Rob Neu and the district “parting ways,” Aurora Lora has taken over as superintendent.

Research shows that children with an incarcerated parent are less likely to graduate from high school and go on to college. They are also more likely than their peers to have behavioral problems, be held back in the early grades and be placed into special education.

Departments

Integration and simplification top wish lists when it comes to website management tools. Administrators want tools to connect easily and effectively with parents and students as the variety of programs, platforms and devices grows.

When it comes to racism in our public schools, many people pretend it doesn’t exist, says Pamela Lewis. In her new book, Teaching While Black, Lewis says a misplaced focus on test scores hides the true causes of underperforming inner-city schools: poverty and race.