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District Profile

There is a stark change in the emotional environment of a school when you take charge of the clock. Two years ago, Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Rock Island-Milan (Ill.) School District #41 moved to a year-round calendar. On a recent Friday, Principal Rick Loy remarks, "I haven't had one student sent to the office all week. And I know why. We've just had two weeks off, everyone is refreshed, remotivated and their fire has been rekindled." Instead of hearing teachers and students asking when the next vacation is, Loy says they're just excited to be back.

Ronnie Blake remembers the first thing he did. He punched into the Internet search engine "gender equity." A few weeks later, the assistant superintendent of the Clayton County school district had a three-inch-thick notebook from that one search and a much deeper understanding of Title IX law.

Detroit Public Schools: True role models


This district is keeping its large Hispanic student population in school and interested with a different type of music program

When Jose Salinas' eighth-grade band students play, they stand but do not march. You will never hear "Pomp and Circumstance" from them.

Instead the guitarrone players will pluck out a strong bass line, and the trumpets, violins and guitars will work through the unmistakable melody of "La Bamba."

What do you do when your primarily Hispanic student body shuns band?


This rural district emphasizes an environmental approach to all aspects of curricula

A few summers back Kane Area (Pa.) Middle School Principal Jeff Kepler and five teachers from his seventh-grade team spent a week looking at rocks, bugs, trees, birds and dirt. They took the temperature and measured the pH of soil; they cored trees to determine age; they kept nature journals and brushed up on their map reading skills.

Sustaining Excellence

In a technology-equipped, Internet-connected science lab at Elk Grove High School in Illinois, the amoeba squirming beneath the lens of a student microscope is projected onto a screen for the entire class to observe.

Meanwhile, in the distance learning room, a human physiology class teleconferences with a heart surgeon from an area hospital, while other students chat with peers from far-away places like Australia, Japan and Bulgaria.

At a suburban elementary school in Washington, just outside Seattle, students sometimes learn best when they match the natural beauty of the great outdoors with man-made plastic computers chips. Students at Benjamin Rush Elementary School in the Lake Washington School District walk through nearby wetlands, take digital pictures of plant species, transport them into their color-screened iPaq handheld computers, and sync the handhelds to a computer to research plants on the Internet. Thus, they create a walking guide to plants on the handheld.

Hooky players in Kentucky's Walton-Verona Independent School District don't stand a chance. If students log more than two unexcused absences in a row, they're guaranteed a visit from a two-man district team charged with keeping kids in school. Maybe administrator Larry Davis will knock on their door. Or perhaps Boone County Sheriff's Deputy Jan Wuchner will show up, asking for an explanation of why they're missing school.

What is insane? In Niagara Falls, N.Y., residents are used to crazy behavior. Besides the disconcerting monthly suicides, there are the stunts. People have walked tightropes over Niagara Falls, gone over in barrels, big plastic balls, kayaks, even jet skis.

But to Niagara Superintendent of Schools Carmen A. Granto, insane is something else. It is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the results to differ. It is sending home the same report card, quarter after quarter, and expecting parents to get more out of it than they do.

In a few short years, the Frontier School District in Red Rocks, Okla., has more than doubled the percentage of its students pursuing a college education. Not coincidentally, at the same time the rural district has nurtured a commitment to learning and achievement among all of its students.