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Articles: Policy & Compliance

Until recently, only rural districts hoping to save money on busing geographically spread-out students had cut the school week down to four days. But now, while some districts are leaning toward year-round schedules, some are actually shortening the week as budgets continue to drop and state officials allow scheduling flexibility.

High school students in Fairfax County, Va., may soon get to hit the snooze button, as the district partners with sleep specialists to delay school start times in hopes of raising academic achievement and improving student health.

“Sleep is absolutely critical to learning,” says Fairfax County Public Schools board member Sandy Evans. “Our adolescent students simply aren’t getting enough sleep for their physical, mental, or academic health.”

A Connecticut school district in the suburbs of New York City violated the IDEA by denying special education students the proper services for the past year, according to a recent Connecticut State Department of Education investigation. The case shows districts may run afoul of the law if special education services are reduced due to budget cuts.

School district leaders must ignore the politics of Common Core and focus on the practical realities of implementation.

As widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards moves ever closer, the initiative is coming under attack from both the left and right. But school district leaders must ignore the politics and focus on the practical realities of implementation: costs, technology, and training, K12 leaders say.

Opponents of the Common Core State Standards say they have a variety of concerns about the effects the standards will have on school districts’ curriculum.

Math standards under Common Core will push the teaching of algebra back a year, from eighth to ninth grade, in many districts, say Lindsey Burke, educational policy fellow at the Heritage Foundation and Jim Stergios, executive director of the Pioneer Institute. Both also insist that the teaching of literature will take a backseat as emphasis shifts to informational texts.

Accordian-style lifts work well in multipurpose rooms or gyms, where balls or other objects cannot be trapped under the machine.

Products such as automatic doors, mechanical lifts, and low, touchless trough sinks increase accessibility in schools. Design elements can also increase accessibility beyond ADA requirements, says Karen Braitmayer, an accessibility consultant.

“A big trend right now is school buildings that have a clarity of organization,” she says. “Good wayfinding is useful to students with cognitive, hearing, and sight impairments.”

Each portable Ascension wheelchair lift has a control panel outside and inside, which allows passengers to operate the lift themselves unless they have assistance.

Districts need to train teachers and paraprofessionals on assisting students with disabilities without injuring themselves or the student. Part of that training must include being aware of every students’ specific needs, says Kathy Espinoza, assistant vice president, ergonomics and safety for Keenan, an insurance brokerage firm.

Espinoza trains teachers and school staff to properly lift students with mobility impairments. “Students may have brittle bones or attempt to go limp when being lifted,” she says. “These are things to be aware of and prepare for.”

The country’s obsession with high-stakes testing is an expensive, destructive failure. Students who can least afford it pay the biggest price.

The substantial number of high school graduates who land in higher education unprepared academically and have to take remedial courses to catch up are more likely than other students to quit before earning a two- or four-year diploma. Now, districts in several states are intervening more aggressively than in the past to better prepare struggling high school students for college-level classes.

Almost two out of three Americans have never heard of the Common Core State Standards, and those who have understand little about them, a new poll finds.

The renovated KIPP DC Douglass Campus houses more than 1,000 charter students in grades preK-12 in a state-of-the-art facility that retains the building’s original character.

The former District of Columbia public school building was constructed in 1950 as a segregated public school. To accommodate the wide age range of its students, the 147,000-square-foot building has multiple entrances and walking routes for students.

Even before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, the city and the state had been the focus of school reform. The Recovery School District project aimed to turn around underperforming schools on a grand scale. But Katrina gave officials a reason to wipe the slate clean in poverty stricken New Orleans. Hope Against Hope (Bloomsbury Press, 2013), by Times-Picayune reporter Sarah Carr, examines those reform efforts from the perspective of the teachers and families they affected.

North Carolina, a state once seen at the forefront of progressive education policy, has become a battleground where reformers and teachers’ advocates are clashing over a wide-ranging new voucher program and the elimination of tenure-based pay.

Test scores improved and teacher salaries hovered at the national average under former Gov. Jim Hunt’s second term, from 1993-2001. Now, teacher pay in North Carolina is 46th in the nation and the number of schools meeting federal performance measures is consistently low, according to the state Department of Public Instruction.

Superintendent Jim McIntyre interacts with Knox County elementary school students.

Knox County Schools is a flourishing district in Tennessee, with most of its 15 high schools having graduation rates above 90 percent. Within the last five years, the district has also has also seen modest gains in reading/language arts, math, science, and social studies as measured by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests for grades 3 through 8.

Jeff Brown, right, athletic trainer at Flower Mound High School in Texas, tends to an injured football player during a game.

With the start of football and the rest of the 2013-2014 school athletic calendar, districts are looking at new laws and training recommendations to help avoid deadly health problems among the 7.5 million students who will play high school sports this year.

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