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It’s getting to be that you need a scorecard to identify district administrators by their titles. To keep up with changing needs, many districts are creating new management positions or adding new responsibilities to old ones and then coming up with titles that sometimes only hint at what they are about.
Districts wanting to turn around schools without hiring an outside organization are being drawn to the University of Virginia School Turnaround Specialist Program, which equips principals and other administrators with the skills needed to bring about deep change in low-performing schools and provides them with ongoing support.
Last year, fifth-graders at the Herricks Union Free School District in New Hyde Park, N.Y., studied the U.S. presidential primaries while following elections in Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Kenya. At South Brunswick High School in Southport, N.C., history students discuss battles of the Civil War via live teleconferences with counterparts in Denmark. Meanwhile the Mathis (Texas) Independent School District, a rural district of nearly 1,800 students, just hired a Chinese language teacher for the first time.
Jane, a high school principal, decides that it is time to change the daily schedule of classes for the next school year. Her goal is to maximize instructional time. Many staff members like the current schedule. It rewards the most senior teachers with the best sequence of classes. Other teachers are ambivalent, as they have accepted the status quo. In proposing a major change like this, a leader will often face intense opposition from those with the most to lose, while those with the most to gain will sit on the fence.
In December, President-elect Barack Obama selected Chicago’s Dodge Renaissance Academy, a 400-student pre-K8 school, as the backdrop for choosing Arne Duncan, the Chicago Public Schools’ CEO, as the nation’s new secretary of education. Touted as a “turnaround school,” Dodge represented the idea that if change could come to a high-poverty, failing school with low test scores and most students on free or reduced-price lunches, then there was hope for all schools.
During his presentation on “Effective Leadership in an Era of Disruptive Innovation” at the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in Washington, D.C., in June, Scott McLeod of Iowa State University (and blogger at dangerouslyirrelevant.org) made a statement that was quickly captured in Tweets by many of those in attendance. “We’re facing a disruptive innovation,” Scott said. “But it’s not online learning; it’s personalized learning.”
Over the past decade, online learning has risen to become one of the fastest growing sectors in education and certainly one of the most intriguing. Today, more and more students at all levels of education—elementary to postsecondary—are opting to take courses online. It is a testament to the effectiveness of this model of education.
Picture A behemoth machine in a 6-by-6-foot room at Inver Grove Heights Junior High School in Minnesota with cables on all sides and a paper roll printing data that was input by ninth-graders hopeful that their numbers from a recent experiment would be analyzed better than they’d been able to do so far.
They had no idea that as they watched they were experiencing for the first time what we today take for granted: an early-model computer doing its job.
A movement to spread scientific learning in a casual environment that started in Britain in the late 1990s has gotten a foothold in the United States. At science cafés, adults gather at a restaurant, bar or other nonacademic spot to listen to a presentation on a scientific topic while enjoying their favorite beverage.
Eating Up School Lunch
I loved the recent article about districts serving healthier and more environmentally friendly meals (“The New School Lunch,” June/July 2009). As a rural school district in Colorado, Garfield Re-2 is leading the way in our state, with many similar initiatives. In fact, Andrea Martin, a New York-based chef, will be in our schools this year working with our kitchen managers and kitchen staff, training them on safety and nutrition, and working on new recipes. We will also have salad bars in all of our schools for the first time this year.
It’s been a busy time for new education technology, with not only many new releases at two large conferences—InfoComm and NECC, both in June—but also updated or entirely new products announced in anticipation of district purchasing decisions for the new school year. But the past few months have also been unique because of the federal funds available to schools from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
Welcome to our “Ninth Annual Salary Survey,” always one of our readers’ most popular features. Along with graphs illustrating the 2008-2009 salary numbers for various administrative positions, in “Administrator Roles Shift with the Times” we feature new, specialized positions that are indicators of key changes going on within districts. As the DA editors know well from speaking with readers on a regular basis, a title in one school district can mean something completely different in another district.