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District Administration, February 2013

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Special Section

Special Section: Sandy Hook School

Critical challenges for school psychologists.
Starting to feel safe again after the Sandy Hook tragedy.


Most principals today are hard pressed to find time for the multitasking they are expected to do, from overseeing the daily operation of their schools and interacting with parents to evaluating teachers and providing them with professional development to do their jobs at a high level.

Gone are the days of squishy grass and pothole-laden school fields: artificial turf fields are becoming an increasingly popular option for districts nationwide for their ease of use and cost-effective maintenance.

Back in 2010, then-elementary school Principal Catherine White focused on writing in the Attleboro (Mass.) Public Schools. And with that, the school’s fourth graders beat the state average for long composition on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

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For years, there’s been an ongoing discussion about the digital divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.” As technology has advanced, so has that gap, which is driving fundamental changes in how we work, learn, and live.

Administrators, educators, and nonprofit entities nationwide have been trying to lessen that gap over the past decade. With newer, lighter technologies like tablets and ultra-light laptops like the MacBook Air, some schools are considering getting rid of textbooks altogether and going digital.

The Windows 8 operating system, which splashed on the market in October 2012, is changing the landscape of Microsoft-based computers. The once traditional PC operating system is making the move toward a more mobile, tablet-based environment in schools. With it comes a drastic change that will affect how educators interact with computers in a Windows-based system. The last major change in Windows OS was in 1995, says Cameron Evans, Microsoft’s chief technology officer for U.S. education. “The world has changed,” Evans says.

Introducing new technology into schools can be difficult, due to time constraints and a lack of resources. But your school can find a new way to help teachers integrate technology into the classroom.

A new partnership between Generation YES, a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower students to use modern technology in schools, and Oba, a cloud-based learning platform that encourages global collaboration, is allowing students to do just that.

Students’ at-home media choices may negatively impact in-class performance, says a new study from Common Sense Media, an organization that provides media information to parents. 71 percent of teachers surveyed believe students’ watching TV and using video games, texting, and social networking have hurt students’ attention spans “a lot” or “somewhat.” 59 percent believe media use has hurt face-to-face communication with others, according to the report “Children, Teens, and Entertainment Media: The View from the Classroom.”


Technology is so prevalent today, why not engage students in school with the same interactive devices and communication tools they love using? That’s the approach the Princeton City (Ohio) School District is taking as it employs a dizzying number of technology devices, software programs, and social media platforms to complement classroom instruction, homework, and extracurricular activities, and bring together students, teachers, counselors and families in a virtual community that increases support, accountability, and ultimately student success.

As a girl growing up in a small community in the east Arkansas town of Cotton Plant, Joyce Littleton Craft calls it a “privilege” to have learned about work ethics and the ideal that “your word is your bond” as she and her siblings tended the family’s cotton crop in what’s called the Delta. “[My parents] stressed the importance of education and reaching your goals, even if that meant working twice as hard,” says Craft.


Glastonbury (Conn.) Public Schools is the latest district to roll out a plan to provide iPads to its 2,200 high school students—and it is only the first step to significantly reduce textbook costs and focus on providing a 21st-century learning environment for its students.

STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education has been a major component to 21st-century learning in K12, but some say the acronym needs to be more inclusive. Several groups created by educators have emerged to support the push for the addition of an “A” to STEM, for STEAM, to represent the disciplines of art.

After years of controversy, court battles, and a disbanded cultural studies program, the Tucson (Ariz.) Unified School District is turning to a new program to raise the achievement of Hispanic students.


Mary T. Barra, General Motors’ senior vice president of global product development and an active supporter of STEM, will be the first woman to receive the 2013 Industry Leadership Award from the SAE Foundation, a global charity supporting STEM learning.

Although school counselors play an important role in students’ college and career readiness, a lack of training and focus on this task often impedes their work, according to the 2012 National Survey of School Counselors. This can directly impact student success, the survey found, since students in schools where counselors are trained and held accountable for college-related activities are more likely to go to college.

In the last 60 years, America’s K12 public school system has experienced far greater growth in employing administrators and non-teaching staff than employing teachers or students, a new report found. This growth occurred in virtually all 50 states, and did not correspond to increased student achievement.

A new assessment system for high school students providing multiple measures of college and career readiness launched this fall, helping students in career-themed public high schools understand what skills they need to enter the 21st-century workforce. The National Academy Foundation (NAF), the largest developer of career-themed public high schools in the country, partnered with education research agency WestEd to create the multi-method test, marking a move toward more effectively measuring college and career readiness.

Implementing the Common Core represents the biggest change to K12 assessment systems since No Child Left Behind, leading to concerns over the costs of enacting these new standards and tests. A report from the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution provides first-of-its kind, comprehensive and up-to-date information on assessment system costs nationwide to help states predict spending under the Common Core.

The Hawaii State Department of Education has embarked on a first- and largest-plan-of-its-kind nationwide to install solar panels in every school in the state. The plan will reduce the sunny state’s school energy costs from $47 million per year to zero, and generate revenue from extra energy that could go back to schools, school officials say.

On Nov. 14, over 1,000 Pennsylvania teachers received free sustainable energy training and teaching materials at the Sustainable Energy Education Workshop from Citizen Power, a nonprofit environmental and consumer advocacy organization. The free professional training and $170 worth of classroom resources, including photovoltaic and concentrating solar kits, wind turbines, LED light bulbs, books and DVDs, were a boost to the state, where schools suffered $860 million in budget cuts in 2011-2012.

District of Columbia Public Schools in Washington, D.C. are retaining far more higher-performing teachers than lower-performing ones due to recent reforms, making it the first urban district in the nation to demonstrate this effect, according to research by The New Teacher Project (TNTP).

Though states are making progress in supporting effective school data use, they must do more to ensure that stakeholders like teachers and parents can easily access information, according to the annual state analysis report, “Data for Action 2012,” released by the Data Quality Campaign, a nonprofit that advocates school data access for all stakeholders.


On Friday, December 14, 2012, as our January 2013 issue was about to be published, we received the horrifying news with the rest of the world about the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a community just 35 miles from our office. Several staff members have ties to the town and the children of a colleague are students at the school. But while we were relieved that our colleague’s children were safe, we were grief-stricken at the loss of so many others.

Learning from Lincoln: Leadership Practices for School Success

In the 21st-century classroom, interactive whiteboards have taken the place of traditional chalkboards from the past. Whiteboards allow for interactive, digital instruction and use software that both students and educators can collaborate with. The lessons, presentations, and online content are also brought to life on whiteboards with the use of projectors, tablets, stands, and controllers. The products featured here are all used to enrich the interactive whiteboard learning experience in the modern K12 environment.