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District Administration, December 2013

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Cover Story

The editors of District Administration magazine are proud to present the 2013 Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products. This year’s winners were chosen from more than 1,800 unique nominations sent by K12 leaders who detailed the products’ positive impacts on their schools.

Features

In a world of constant technological change, the ability to adapt is priceless. Creativity is a necessary skill in the modern workplace, and in a 2010 survey by IBM, American CEOs identified it as the best predictor of career success. But those same CEOs said they believed that Americans were becoming less innovative.

Blaire Lennane was thrilled when a charity offered a year ago to provide the teachers and subsidies necessary to start a music program in her daughter’s elementary school.

As school leaders shift to selling healthier products in their vending machines, they can also take the opportunity to change their business model and consider investing in high-tech machines for a range of benefits.

A bank in Albuquerque, N.M., had a limited budget to make one of its branches more environmentally sustainable, so students at the local ACE (Architecture, Construction, and Engineering) Leadership High School rolled up their sleeves and went to work. They searched websites for green design options, consulted with an engineer, and used spreadsheets to compare potential costs and energy savings.

District CIO

The rise of 1-to-1 programs has pushed a surge of mobile devices into schools, creating a whole new logistical challenge for district CIOs.

Principals, superintendents, and district CIOs are increasingly becoming the decision-makers for purchasing school apps, according to a new survey.

Districts are dropping bans on YouTube and allowing students and teachers access to the site’s educational videos. Paving the way in this shift in policy are large districts like Chicago and Broward County, Fla.

Opinion

Teach For America founder Wendy Kopp once said, “If top recent college graduates devoted two years to teaching in public schools, they could have a real impact on the lives of disadvantaged kids.” I agree. TFA members and other short-term teachers have changed kids’ lives—for the worse.

As an idealistic Ivy League graduate, I was the student TFA likes to recruit. According to Kopp’s thesis, my education, academic achievements, and enthusiasm would transfer into great teaching.

When you drive the winding, wooded roads of Sandy Hook, Conn., the reminders of what happened here on Dec. 14, 2012, are everywhere.

Solutions

It’s not little and it’s not red, but the schoolhouse remains the center of Cincinnati Public Schools’ neighborhoods. The schools are where students and residents alike have access to free health care, civic programs, and mentoring provided through partnerships with social service agencies.

These partnerships have transformed schools into Community Learning Centers and are central to the district’s nearly completed $1 billion construction project, Superintendent Mary Ronan says.

Briefings

Astronaut gear made by high school students in a NASA program will be sent up to the International Space Station in June. It will be the first student projects to be sent to the station during the program’s 10 years of operation.

A citywide school turnaround program that offers full-tuition college scholarships for urban students has seen early success in increasing high school test scores and college attendance.

Texas’ teacher merit pay system, once the largest in the nation with early successful results, was eliminated in a summer legislative session due to massive cuts to the state’s education budget. The small amount of funding that remains has been converted into a competitive grant for improving instruction in low-income districts.

Less than half of U.S. states have policies to combat cyberbullying in schools despite recent media coverage of students who committed suicide after suffering persistent online harassment.

Superintendent resigns

Stephen Falcone, superintendent of Darien Public Schools in Connecticut, resigned in October after a state Department of Education report found the district violated special education laws on multiple occasions during the 2012-2013 school year.

Students attending alternative high schools located in shopping malls nationwide are succeeding academically, with an average graduation rate of 90 percent in the nontraditional setting.

A New Jersey district’s proposal to randomly drug test students in extracurricular activities has parents and the school board divided over district transparency.

The board at Northern Valley Regional High School District in Bergen County, N.J., voted in July to draft a policy for the testing as a supplement to other education-based drug prevention efforts in the district of two high schools.

Philadelphia schools almost didn’t open this fall, after a $304 million budget cut forced 4,000 layoffs. Though $45 million in state emergency aid released in October is helping make progress toward recovery, the district remains without basic services that most administrators take for granted, such as vice principals and secretaries in every school.

Nearly half of all students in public schools are now considered low income and therefore eligible for free or reduced lunch. And in 17 states, those students are already the majority, says a new report by the Southern Education Foundation that looks at data from 2010 and 2011.

Departments

Diane Ravitch is outspoken in her criticisms of education in this country. Her latest book Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools (Knopf, 2013), pulls no punches in its arguments against testing, the charter school movement, and federally driven mandates.