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Districts of Distinction March 2016: Creative collaboration

The first round of 2016 awards go to districts that think outside the box
  •  Allegheny Valley School District’s MakerSpace allows students to experiment with STEAM concepts.
  • Free and open software programs are the centerpiece of Penn Manor School District’s 1-to-1 laptop learning program.
  • Students enjoy how Austin ISD’s Creative Learning Initiative brings quality arts instruction into the classroom.
  • Texarkana ISD professional development model prepares teachers and administrators for STEM curriculum.

Districts are learning to do more with less.

It’s a common theme explored in this round of District Administration’s triannual Districts of Distinction program. Educators constantly face new challenges that often require resources that may be in short supply.

But this round’s honorees show a surplus of exemplary creativity, innovation and problem-solving skills that are increasing student achievement and graduation rates and, most importantly, facilitating education.

Though the challenges vary, similarities abound among the solutions deployed by the 33 district honorees, representing 17 states from all across the nation.

Partnerships with outside entities and organizations continue to be successful in addressing needs. In 2014, Deer Park Community City School District in Ohio reached out to local businesses to establish career academies, which prepare students who are not necessarily college-bound by exposing them to working professionals and workplace challenges.

Cherry Creek Schools in Colorado has teamed up with NASA and Colorado State University on a STEM initiative in which students engage in tasks such as designing experiments for the International Space Station or launching weather balloons with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Districts also keep pace with technology while balancing the advancements against the realities of student access. California’s rural Coachella Valley USD installed wireless routers on its buses to provide internet connectivity for students who don’t have access at home. Katy ISD in Texas developed its own mobile app that provides school calendars, sports scores and news, and also allows parents to monitor students’ schedules, assignments and grades.

DA’s team of editors selected the latest Districts of Distinction based on the success of each program as well as replicability to inspire other school systems to seek innovative solutions for their own challenges.

For more information about Districts of Distinction, including how to apply and a list of current and past honorees, visit www.districtadministration.com/dod.