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District Administration, March 2014

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Cover Story

When students are diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), approaches that were once excluded from the classroom are now considered a valid option for helping them focus and learn. 

Features

The substitute teacher just became more valuable.

Economic struggles and new federal education guidelines over the past five years have changed the environment for substitute teachers. When economic difficulties led to staff cutbacks in almost every industry, many laid-off workers signed up to be substitutes, allowing districts to be more selective.

When students are diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), approaches that were once excluded from the classroom are now considered a valid option for helping them focus and learn. 

Giving math teachers the training and classroom tools to effectively implement the Common Core is the biggest challenge school districts face when it comes to improving achievement.

That’s why making teachers comfortable with the new standards will be a driving force in many of the sessions at this spring’s National Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ (NCTM) conference.

A new approach to assessing students’ three-dimensional learning should soon give teachers a clearer picture of the reasoning their students are using to grasp key science concepts. This more intensive level of assessment will be a critical tool for schools implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that are designed to boost STEM scores.

Take it from one expert: Implementing Common Core literacy standards will be “hell” if district administrators can’t answer questions from educators, parents and policymakers about how the new standards will help students learn.

District CIO

Just five years ago, Chawanakee USD, a small rural district nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Mountains in northern California, and the North Kansas City School District, a suburban district located just north of Kansas City, Mo., were at the starting lines of the digital revolution.

The National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) named three winners of its annual Digital Principals Award: Daisy Dyer Duerr, principal of St. Paul High School in Arkansas; Jason Markey, principal of East Leyden High School in Illinois; and Derek McCoy, principal of Spring Lake Middle School in North Carolina.

Blended learning is becoming entrenched in California schools, but elementary schools and high schools are taking different approaches when integrating this learning technology.

Elementary schools are using the “station rotation” model, in which students in small groups may spend 20 minutes in a reading center, followed by 20 minutes at a computer using an online learning program, and an additional 20 minutes of small group instruction with the teacher.

Opinion

All across the country, discussions around improving educator effectiveness and evaluation have become synonymous. Forces from state houses and federal agencies compel us to engage in the work of redesigning evaluation systems and to devise ways of using student outcomes as a significant part of that effort.

Superintendents and the evaluations they use are coming directly into the crosshairs.

School district leaders must keep a diverse audience of teachers, principals, parents, local community leaders and other stakeholders informed of important district activities and learning initiatives.

Sometimes it can be a challenge for administrators to convey to a broad audience how a school district is transforming teaching and learning with educational technologies and digital content.

Education in crisis. To you, the phrase may evoke financial crisis, perhaps high dropout rates or maybe issues involving falling tests scores. But I am a risk manager. To me, when a school cannot open for a day, for a week, for a month or longer—no matter the reason—that is the essence of a real educational crisis.

What happened? This is what we at the Red Hook Central School District had to ask when we looked at our student achievement data.

In some cases, there was a mismatch between our beliefs about certain teachers and actual performance, as measured by student achievement data. Ultimately, our personal biases were exposed and this led us to rethink our hiring practices.

The age of textbooks and filing cabinets is coming to an end. Smart phones, tablets and cloud storage are the tools of the day.

Most students probably have their own devices by the time they reach middle school and most school districts use cloud services for record retention and data analysis.

Solutions

An instructor in a classroom addresses the students. “We’re going to discuss how to ask questions in a way that doesn’t sound threatening, but instead builds trust. Let’s look at some of the vocabulary we’re using now to interact with teachers and how, through word substitution, we can reshape those conversations to foster better outcomes.”

In the past 15 years, the Shakopee School District, in a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul, has grown from 3,500 students to 8,000. The district is averaging 300 new students and 50-60 new teachers per year. We spoke with Superintendent Rod Thompson, who attended the San Antonio District Administration Leadership Institute Summit in November, about the challenges and opportunities of continued growth.

Briefings

Disabled students in wealthy, less-diverse districts are twice as likely as their low-income peers to be restrained or placed in isolation in school, according to new research by the University of New Hampshire.

Restraint and isolation have been used primarily on students who pose a threat to themselves or others. And few schools resort to these physical solutions: Some 95 percent of districts reported fewer than 10 instances of restraint or seclusion per 100 students with a disability in 2009-10.

Joplin, Mo., lost three schools to one of the deadliest tornadoes to strike the nation in May 2011. And nearly three years later, in January, three new schools opened their doors for 1,300 students who had been attending classes at temporary facilities since the disaster.

Snow days are melting away as schools increasingly take advantage of online curriculum to keep students learning virtually during weather closures.

Students in a STEM pilot project at Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, N.Y., have developed a number of innovative mobile apps to help the hearing impaired.

Students in a Michigan district say they feel safer this year thanks to dogs that regularly search schools for weapons and illegal substances, a new survey shows.

As study after study finds students who exercise regularly perform better in the classroom, school systems like Los Angeles USD are working to enhance elementary and middle school physical education programs.

LAUSD is funding a new program in which 17 physical education instructors are sent to five elementary schools to train classroom teachers to lead their students in an outdoor PE class, in addition to their regular classroom learning, says Chad Fenwick, the district’s K12 physical education advisor.

Districts looking for transformational leaders to turn around schools may find more success by rigorously training their own teachers and assistant principals for leadership roles, according to a recent report.

New Jersey middle schoolers next year may be assigned to tweet and post Facebook updates as part of new classes on social media and internet use.

In January, the state became the first in the nation to pass a law requiring students in grades six through eight to take a class that will teach the appropriate use of various social media sites. The curriculum also will cover cyberbullying, cyber safety and ethics.

NONPROFIT LEADER

Former North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue is leading a new digital education nonprofit called the Digital Learning Institute, which aims to expand technology use in the classroom and increase instructional opportunities for teachers. Perdue, who was a teacher before entering politics, received funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A first-of-its-kind law in California addressing the rights of transgender students in public schools has set guidelines for administrators on how to ensure safety and equality for these students, who are at an increased risk for bullying.

Upon entering middle school last fall, cancer survivor Cici Collins had no idea her story would inspire a new curriculum for her entire grade.

Wisconsin middle and high school students are learning more about their state’s farming and produce industries through a new curriculum developed by the state’s Ag in the Classroom program.

The “Telling Our Agricultural Story” curriculum includes print and online materials that highlight information about local farms and their production methods, says Darlene Arneson, the Ag in the Classroom coordinator.

Departments

In mid-January a new organization called Integrity In Education was launched with the goal of “exposing the corporate and profit-motivated influences working to control public education across the country.”

Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits

Jossey-Bass

In this follow-up to her best-selling book “The Book Whisperer,” author and reading expert Donalyn Miller focuses on how to instill lifelong reading habits in students. Based in part on survey responses from adult and student readers, this book offers strategies on how to develop and encourage the key habits that lead to a lifelong love of reading. Also included are lesson plans and recommended book lists for students.