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November 2012

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Cover Story

Evaluating teachers—whether casually or more rigorously, annually or less frequently—has long been part of the job description of many a principal and assistant principal, who often have relied on occasional observations to make their judgments. What’s usually resulted are an overwhelming number of “satisfactory” ratings and the infrequent “unsatisfactory” designations.


When William Hite Jr. introduced himself as a candidate for superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia in a community meeting earlier this year, he read from a list of student concerns he had jotted down on a slip of paper. For example, one student observed that there were more police officers than counselors in some schools, and another wished that teachers would find new ways to teach and find ways to engage more students.

Although best practices in student instruction and learning have evolved dramatically over the past couple of decades, new approaches to educator professional development have lagged behind considerably. The traditional whole group, one-size-fits-all strategy universally recognized as ineffective for teaching students, has too-long remained the status quo for many school and districts leaders.

Five years ago, a pair of science teachers at Woodland Park (Colo.) High School turned their pedagogical approach upside down. Rather than stand up in front of the classroom, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams sent their respective students home with videos of themselves lecturing. And rather than assigning traditional homework, work that most students could get tripped up on if they are not sure about a certain topic, the teachers gave students time in class—with their close supervision and help—to put their learning into practice.

Evaluating teachers—whether casually or more rigorously, annually or less frequently—has long been part of the job description of many a principal and assistant principal, who often have relied on occasional observations to make their judgments. What’s usually resulted are an overwhelming number of “satisfactory” ratings and the infrequent “unsatisfactory” designations.

District CIO

School principals are in the middle of a balancing act when it comes to security. They need to create a welcoming, supportive open environment for students, parents, and credible community visitors who have legitimate purposes in their buildings, while they also have to keep out individuals who potentially have “ill intentions,” says Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, a national consulting firm specializing in school security and emergency preparedness training, school security assessments and school and crisis counseling services.


Educators pursuing professional development can learn anytime, anywhere, using personalized global classrooms with hand picked “teachers” and “textbooks.”

You have an open Tuesday night? Take up a live chat with Australian educators about math curriculum.

What about a long commute? Listen to a podcast about classroom evaluation.

In fact, online resources are so ubiquitous and accessible that we must ask if traditional, school-based PD will go the way of the Walkman and the Laserdisc.

This is an updated version of the interview posted on the District Administration website at the time of the strike.

Longtime school superintendent Randall Collins, executive director of the District Administration Leadership Institute (, shares professional insights on the Chicago teacher strike with Odvard Egil Dyrli, District Administration’s executive editor.


An investment in ‘human capital’ sets Dallas Independent School District apart. The term refers to the teachers and school leaders who support the classrooms. Believing that a team of quality teachers is the single greatest component to moving his district’s students’ academics forward, Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles restructured the district’s human resources department so it would focus more on recruiting and developing an outstanding cadre of instructors.

For students of Leyden High School District 212, two miles from O’Hare Airport in Illinois, Aug. 14, 2012 felt more like their birthday than the first day of school. The district, comprising East and West Leyden high schools, realized its long-planned hope of providing a computing device to every student and gave out 3,500 new Google Chromebooks.


Bibb County, Ga. is better known for being at the heart of confederacy than for its international interests—until now. This fall marked the beginning of a new curriculum for the school district, with Mandarin Chinese classes now required for all pre-K12 students. Haitian-born superintendent Romain Dallemand’s goal is to have all students become fully bilingual in English and Mandarin by high school graduation.


National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel announced a $500,000 challenge grant toward expanding a successful New Jersey Education Association program nationwide to help increase the number of certified science and math teachers in schools.

It’s a common situation: A school district in desperate need of additions or renovations and technology upgrades borrows money from investors, to be paid back with interest. But for the Poway Unified School District in San Diego County, Calif., there is a twist: They don’t need to make any payments on the $105 million they borrowed in 2011 until 2033, so the district’s debt will continue to grow as interest on the loan amasses. In the end, taxpayers will be charged $877 million in interest alone.

With the rapid growth of high-definition color video and multimedia images for instructional applications in classrooms and schools, comparing the delivery quality of projectors is of pivotal importance. While the 3LCD company has long maintained the superiority of its three-chip projector design to deliver clear and vibrant color, until recently, there were no standardized ways to measure and compare color performance. Although school buyers could compare projector ratings by “white light output,” or brightness, rating color quality was a different story.

The Teachers College Community School (TCCS), a university-assisted public pre-K8 school, opened the doors of its new permanent home in West Harlem, N.Y. in September. The school, which initially opened in fall of 2011 in a different location, represents a unique collaboration between the Columbia University Teachers College and the New York City Department of Education to provide a strong public education for members of the community, as well as education training for university students.

New Hampshire’s Nashua School District stood up to a challenge of discrimination this year, allowing a transgender third grade student to attend a new elementary school as a female, despite her biological status as a male. “It’s our policy not to discriminate against any student, and that would include transgender students,” Superintendent Mark Conrad stated.

The second annual Follett Challenge encourages educators to align their curriculum to teach 21st century learning skills—and is offering double the prize money as last year to those who do. Educators from all departments in schools can enter to demonstrate how their programs develop critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration between students and among educators in a 21st century setting, no matter the resources available.

According to the “SAT Report on College & Career Readiness” released in September, only 43 percent of SAT takers in the class of 2012 were academically prepared for college by their high school graduation. This number represents the percentage of students who met the SAT benchmark score of 1550. Research shows these students are more likely to enroll in four-year colleges, and have higher first-year college GPAs and higher rates of retention. The class of 2011 also had only 43 percent of SAT takers hit the benchmark.

Gail Connelly, NAESP executive directorPrincipals represent a major force in school systems—95,000 principals are responsible for overseeing 3 million teachers and 55 million pre-K8 students.

School district leaders across the nation can benefit from two new grant-funding services. CDW-G has created a new, first-of-its-kind site called, worth $600 million in combined grants. And Ingersoll Rand Security Technologies has created a cloud-based database of federal and state grant funding information for district leaders, including superintendents, and grant writers, particularly related to safety and security.


Odvard Egil DyrliAfter serving as editor-in-chief of District Administration magazine a few years ago, and then leaving temporarily to work on other projects, it is an enormous personal privilege to return as executive editor and greet our many readers again. Or, as they say in the movies, “He’s back...!”