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District Administration, June 2013

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Cover Story

According to a recent survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 91 percent of adult internet users in the United States rely on search engines to find information, and 78 percent get news online. Similarly, among teenagers, where smartphone adoption increased substantially and mobile access to the internet is pervasive, one in four is a “cell-mostly” user who accesses the web through a cell phone. Online resources continue to shape every aspect of our lives, and are enriching, extending, and transforming schools.


Recognizing that American K12 students have fallen behind foreign students in their grasp of scientific principles, educators have devised a new set of teaching guidelines that will radically change the way science is taught in classrooms across the United States—including recommendations that climate change and evolution be taught as core elements of scientific knowledge.

Last December, the small town of Newtown, Conn., was forever changed. The students, staff, parents, and community members of Newtown (Conn.) Public Schools were traumatized on Dec. 14, 2012, when lone gunman and former student Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Students who are identified early as at-risk and get support like extra reading have a better chance at graduating high school. But many students are unable to access early education opportunities and, research says, fewer than half of poor children are ready for school at age 5.

“People don’t often think about preschool as [an element of] dropout prevention,” says Marty Duckenfield, spokesperson for the National Dropout Prevention Center. “They think of the surly high school kid with behavior problems—but it goes back to other issues, and one is early childhood education.”

District CIO

Cloud computing is taking K12 by storm with fully 90 percent of K12 institutions relying on or implementing cloud technology in 2012, according to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). District CIOs are under increased pressure to cut costs and keep up with the latest technological trends, and implementing the cloud is an easy fix.

Only 16% of students feel “very prepared” to conduct research, according to a survey of over 1,500 students by Credo, an information skills solutions provider.


Education and business leaders, the press, and the president have all called for increased emphasis on STEM in K12 schools, and NGSS, the “Next Generation Science Standards” released in April are a response to those priorities ( The standards do an outstanding job of defining science and engineering for our time.


This past school year has been a little less hectic for busy juniors and seniors at Hempfield High School, thanks to a new, unique online course-sharing initiative.

The Hempfield School District is in a suburban-rural community outside Lancaster, Pa., and is one of three local districts that have implemented Open Campus PA, a program that unites its high school with the nearby Penn Manor and Manheim Township districts’ high schools. The goal is to share teachers and selected online courses, allowing participating students to take online classes on their own time.

With more than 30 years of education experience, Joseph Lopez brought grant money and state funding to help grow student achievement.


Four students in Maine had the unique chance to study organisms on their shoreline this past year to help contribute research to a new chemical bond discovery that Vanderbilt University researchers made three years ago.

Two kindergarten classes are speaking Spanish throughout most of their days in a successful opt-in, dual-language program in the Tigard-Tualatin (Ore.) School District.

In the aftermath of the nation’s largest standardized test cheating scandal, 35 Atlanta Public Schools educators, including former Superintendent Beverly Hall, were criminally indicted for changing student answers on high-stakes state tests.

Investing in the Arts

Andrew Bott, principal of Orchard Gardens K8 School in Boston Public Schools, reinvested money used for the troubled school’s security infrastructure into the arts in 2010. As a result, today the school has one of the fastest student test improvement rates statewide.

Connecticut, home to some of the wealthiest and most destitute towns in the country, has the nation’s largest student achievement gap, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

This gap is most severe in Bridgeport, Conn., one of the poorest cities in the United States based on the percentage of children living at or below the federal poverty line. In Bridgeport Public Schools, fewer than half of the 21,000 students are proficient in math and reading, according to the Connecticut Department of Education, and the high school graduation rate is 55 percent.

Walking to school combats obesity and increases student concentration, according to a Danish study released last year. Children who walk or bike to school performed better on tasks demanding concentration, such as solving puzzles, than those who traveled by car or bus, the researchers found.

In 11 states, scores for school climate are becoming as important as those for math and reading, thanks to a new score card that allows administrators to learn where they need to improve school safety, student engagement, and overall learning environment.

Florida’s Marion County School Board has again allowed paddling in elementary schools, three years after banning corporal punishment. Though administrators did not recommend the move, three of five school board members voted the measure in, says Kevin Christian, a spokesperson for Marion County Public Schools. One of those leading the charge was a former elementary school principal who believes paddling works to curb behavioral issues.

With the Common Core standards comes an increasing focus on literacy across subjects: today, 77 percent of educators believe developing students’ literacy is one of the most important parts of their job, a new survey found.

“It’s much more widely understood today that every educator has a responsibility to improve student literacy, which is the gateway to learning in all disciplines,” says Kent Williamson, director of the National Center for Literacy Education, which conducted the survey of 2,400 educators nationwide.

Students in the Allegheny Valley (Pa.) School District use robotics kits to build moving dioramas that integrate poetry and engineering. Robotics and poetry aren’t an ordinary combination.

More than 50% of parents of children age 3 to 18 believe that schools should make more use of mobile devices in education, and 32% say schools should require them in the classroom, according to a new nationally representative survey. The survey from the research and consulting firm Grunwald Associates and the Learning First Alliance also found that 45% of parents say they have already bought or plan to buy a mobile device to support their child’s learning, and 71% believe mobile devices open up learning opportunities.


The latest technology has made learning a little easier for unique students at any grade level with a physical or learning disability. Whether it’s software that adapts to their reading level, a tablet application to provide mobility, or having various resources at their fingertips, there’s something for all students to help them learn and communicate more effectively.  

School Fuel
Mobile Learning Platform

Throughout my long career in teacher education and supervision in K12 school districts, I participated in almost every staff development model anyone can suggest, starting with print-based courses at a distance. The in-person options included doing national tours for school executives in major cities, sponsored by companies such as Microsoft and the former Compaq; week-long summer programs in colleges and universities; weekend and after-school programs in school districts; presentations at professional conferences; and one-day workshops hosted at hotels across the country.