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Forced to make grade reconfigurations, Island Trees School District in New York created Michael Stokes Elementary School, for grades 2 through 4, above, out of a K4 elementary school building to save money and to use staff more efficiently.

School leaders nationwide are exploring innovative group-level groupings and thinking beyond the typical K5 elementary school, grades 6 through 8 middle school and grades 9 through 12 high school model to figure out how to continue to deliver appropriate education with fewer funds.

36 states increased the rigor of their standards since 2013, while five made them less rigorous. (Click to enlarge)

The push to establish national academic benchmarks may have been dealt yet another blow by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Nearly two dozen states began revising the Common Core after the new law reaffirmed their authority to create their own standards.

Students from Minford High School in Ohio visit with therapy dog Bella after a fellow student was killed.

Here are some tips from Jen VonLintel, of School Therapy Dogs: 

Find studies that show benefits. A binder of research and examples of dogs working in schools can be key to gaining the support of top administrators and/or the school board. Include insurance documents, training data, vet certificates and reports on progress made by students who have worked with therapy dogs.   

School’s certainly in session for canines throughout the nation: Therapy dogs, security dogs, and service dogs walk the halls alongside students in many schools. Here is a look at five more districts that have welcomed canines into classrooms in recent years.

Students can use a free Khan Academy test prep program to better prepare for the redesigned SAT.

The redesigned SAT seeks to expand opportunities for all students to go to college—but its focus on reading comprehension may make the exam more difficult for English-language learners and low-income students.

The Upsala Area School District in Minnesota created incentives that have enticed teachers like Heather Johnson, from Upsala Elementary School, to retire when the school year ends.

For many districts, early retirement incentives are considered a good business practice—a way to cut top-heavy payrolls and replace teachers whose heart may no longer be in the classroom. But without good planning, these incentives can have unintended financial and academic costs. 

Disabled students are in every group, including this graduating class. The national graduation rate hit a historic high of 82 percent in 2014; however, students with disabilities graduated at a rate of 63 percent. (Photo: Communities In Schools)

While national graduation rates hit an all-time high of 82 percent in 2014, the trend for students with disabilities remained flat at nearly 63 percent. In three states, students with disabilities graduated from high school at half the rate of their non-disabled peers.

Teachers are coming out of classrooms to build trust with parents. Teachers visit K8 students in the fall to learn more about families. A second home visit in the spring is about building academic skills and sharing information.

32 states and the District of Columbia raised funding levels of preschool programs

Total state funding for preschool programs rose by $767 million, to a total of nearly $7 billion. In the 2015-16 budget year, 32 states and the District of Columbia raised funding levels of preschool programs—ans support stemmed from both sides of the political aisle.

Collaborations between businesses and districts run deeper than internships. Business representatives help districts create curriculum and train teachers. They also volunteer as coaches and mentors to help students gain college and career readiness skills.

In many partnerships that bring businesses and schools together, a private or nonprofit third party serves as a bridge to the most successful collaborations.

For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) offers extracurricular STEM activities, including an international high school robotics competition, to more than 400,000 K12 students nationwide, with mostly school-based robotics or younger LEGO League teams in 86 countries.

The amount of money raised annually by nonprofit parent-run organizations soared from $197 million in 1995 to $880 million in 2010.

The amount of money raised annually by nonprofit parent-run organizations soared from $197 million in 1995 to $880 million in 2010. Aggressive fundraising to support athletic teams, buy school equipment and funds field trips further widens disparities between affluent and economically challenged districts.

Pomona USD in California has raised its graduation rate to 88 percent. The turnaround began when Pomona formed partnerships with several community organizations and nearby colleges.

No matter how cutting-edge the technology or advanced the curriculum, students have a hard time mastering essays and equations if they’re hungry, traumatized or feeling marginalized by a textbook’s inaccurate portrayal of their ethnic group.

In the mountains of western North Carolina, administrators in Buncombe County Schools have seen a steady rise in the number of its 25,500 students who are homeless, food-insecure and involved in domestic violence.

In January, the Jackson Public Schools became the first district in Mississippi to launch an evening high school that students attend from 2:30 to 8:30 p.m. It’s designed for students whose other commitments—such as jobs or caring for their own children or younger siblings—make traditional school hours difficult.

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