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Jan 2013

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Cover Story

Enter “teaching students with autism” in Google, and more than 8 million results pop up instantly. Is it any wonder public school administrators, not to mention parents, are overwhelmed with the task of educating children on the autism spectrum?

Features

In 2010, Attila J. Weninger was 61 and ready to retire. But he received a phone call. A recruitment firm hired by the Stevens Point (Wis.) Area Public School District called on Weninger to help the troubled district, which faced budget problems, vacancies in top cabinet positions, and two previously failed referendums.

It’s not news that public school districts have maintained productive relationships with the business community over the years. In Ohio, Cincinnati Bell recently helped a failing high school in the Cincinnati Public Schools transform itself into an information technology academy by providing student internships, a fleet of volunteer mentors, and college scholarships, not to mention five computer labs.

Enter “teaching students with autism” in Google, and more than 8 million results pop up instantly. Is it any wonder public school administrators, not to mention parents, are overwhelmed with the task of educating children on the autism spectrum?

What will another President Obama term mean to K12 superintendents and school districts? While indications are found in the Democratic national platform, the speeches, interviews, and K12 documents from the president, and education plans on the White House website, we asked longtime school superintendent Randall Collins, executive director of the District Administration Leadership Institute (daleadershipinstitute.com) to share professional insights. Here is his conversation with Odvard Egil Dyrli, executive editor of District Administration.

District CIO

As the cutting edge of technology has moved from getting computers into the classroom to digitizing textbooks to fully and seamlessly integrating technology into pedagogy, the role of superintendents and other district leaders has needed to shift to ensure teachers and students are reaping the benefits.

But that cutting edge has been evolving ever more swiftly in recent years, and at the same time, the roles of school district leaders have been expanding and becoming more complex, which has added to the challenges.

As the cutting edge of technology has moved from getting computers into the classroom to digitizing textbooks to fully and seamlessly integrating technology into pedagogy, the role of superintendents and other district leaders has needed to shift to ensure teachers and students are reaping the benefits.

But that cutting edge has been evolving ever more swiftly in recent years, and at the same time, the roles of school district leaders have been expanding and becoming more complex, which has added to the challenges.

Superstorm Sandy swept the East Coast in late October, leaving not only residents and businesses without power and struggling to stay afloat, but thousands of schools in the region without power as well. It reminded administrators of the need for comprehensive emergency plans to ensure student, staff, and data security.

Opinion

A few months ago, a Chinese family moved into a house down the block from our home in New Jersey. The two kids playing in the front yard looked about the age of our own teenagers, so within a few days we did the neighborly thing and introduced ourselves. The good news? The family seemed genuinely happy to meet us. The bad news? They barely spoke a word of English. There was a lot of smiling and pointing (to our house) and uncomfortable sound-making from both kids and adults, but we didn’t manage to communicate very much in our brief encounter.

Solutions

While education research has long suggested that studying second languages in K12 schools boosts student achievement in other content areas, the current testing emphases on mathematics and reading has placed foreign language instruction relatively low on district priority lists. However, a growing body of research indicates that second-language learning should be bumped up significantly, as demonstrated particularly in the following areas.

Schools aren’t often called one of the best in the world, but it happened in the rural district of Chester County (S.C.) School District. In October 2012, computing behemoth Microsoft named Chester County’s Great Falls Elementary School a 2012 “Innovative Pathfinder and Mentor School.” The distinction comes from the Microsoft Partners in Learning Program, a 10-year, nearly $500 million commitment to transform K12 education around the world by connecting teachers and school leaders in a community of professional development.

Last August, Superintendent Jim Capolupo stood in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building—a grand building in Washington, D.C. a stone’s throw from the White House—where he was invited to tell his story about his school district, Springfield (Pa.) Public Schools.

Briefings

Kerry MuseDigital Learning Leader

Calif. educator Kerry Muse will lead Venture Academy, Minnesota’s first personalized, blended digital learning school. He will coach a team of educators to reinvent traditional education to help students become innovators and entrepreneurial leaders.

The tornado that tore through Joplin, Mo. in May 2011 killed more than 150 people, demolished thousands of homes and businesses, and damaged or destroyed 10 public schools. Though students were affected by the tragedy, many remain afraid to ask for the mental health services they may need.

Forty-two states and the District of Columbia allow charter schools to operate, but most of these states need to overhaul their laws governing these schools, according to a report from the Center for Education Reform (CER). In October, CER released “The Essential Guide to Charter School Lawmaking: Model Legislation for States” to provide a format for creating strong charter laws that can withstand political changes with regard to funding, operations, and accountability.

Departments

PASCO
SPARKvue HD iPad App
Designed around a science learning framework, the SPARKvue HD iPad App works with any PASCO sensor to measure many forms of scientific data in real time, including pH, temperature, force and motion, and carbon dioxide level. The app can display the data in a graph, analog meter, digits, or table, analyze it with built-in statistical tools and create electronic student lab journals. 

Odvard Egil DyrliGrowing up in a bilingual home near New York City, where my brother and I were the only ones who spoke Norwegian in our elementary school, I remember being asked to translate for newly-arrived Scandinavian students whose parents were assigned to the UN.