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In New York, an aggressive opt-out movement—wherein about 60 percent of third- through eighth-graders skipped high-stakes tests—has forced many districts to rethink their assessment methods.

Wealthy schools can raise eye-popping amounts from fundraising that add to the opportunities for well-off students, while the neediest schools struggle to keep up.

OFFERING INSIGHT—Students at Saint Louis Public Schools work on tablets. The district is using technology to share student academic and behavioral data with parents in real-time.

More than a decade after Response-to-Intervention and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) took root on school campuses across the country, multi-tier strategies have become the standard for identifying and assisting struggling students.

District leaders and experts weigh in on the four steps to having a successful intervention.

BUILDING BONUS —Island Trees School District in New York saved about $500,000 a year after it reorganized a pair of K4 elementary schools into a K1 building and a school for grades 2 through 4.

Districts devote nearly 80 percent of their budgets to personnel costs—leaving little wiggle room for administrators tasked with maintaining fiscal responsibility and boosting the quality of education in a time of nearly stagnant funding.

Districts have several options when introducing a badging program.

For students, the process tends to be more intricate because these badges, often awarded for soft skills and career-preparation activities, contain metadata that details what students did to earn the badges. Such higher-tech “open badges” can be shared on social media and live on an online platform such as Credly, Mozilla or Badgr.

Districts are advised to go through the graphic design process to create high-quality badges that drive engagement—rather than using stock art.

Middle and high school students in Providence, Rhode Island, can earn badges—and class credit—for skills learned in after-school programs.

A growing number of districts now award digital badges to students who demonstrate creativity and critical thinking, and even for noteworthy experiences in after-school programs.

Fast disappearing from schools are internet “lock and block” policies that keep students off social media and restrict them to carefully curated websites. Even with sophisticated filters and firewalls, today’s learners carry all the access in the world in their back pockets.

Across the country, thousands of school districts are building and publicizing summer meal programs, components of a 48-year-old, federally funded effort to keep low-income children from suffering the health and cognitive effects of summer hunger.

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