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Foreign language teachers are cultivating global competence in today's classrooms. Above, educators interact at last year’s conference of the American Council of the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

Foreign language has become a necessity for “global competence”—the ability to use a language beyond the classroom, in the workforce and in social settings. The idea of global competence encompasses sensitivity, respect and understanding of other cultural perspectives.

Students are safer in schools, like the one above, that have Data Management Inc.’s Visitor Pass Solutions Software. It gathers updated data on all visitors.

School visitors are no longer just writing their names in a notebook when they sign in. Districts are now scanning fingerprints and eyes to check if a visitor or contractor has a criminal record. The new methods not only provide background checks, but can also track how many times someone has visited a school.

To measure academic excellence, Tacoma Public Schools tracks test scores, graduation rates, college acceptance and participation in extracurricular activities.

Instead of quizzes and tests that interrupt classroom activity, many districts and testing companies are working on ways to integrate formative assessments into daily instruction and use technology to gather real-time feedback on student progress.

At Raymond LaPerche Elementary School in Smithfield, R.I., Amy O’Hara, school data leadershp team member, far left, works with first-grade teachers Lena Martel and Laura Zucker to analyze reading test results and to determine specific skills to target.

A new bounty of academic data is guiding teachers as they adjust instruction in the hopes of boosting student achievement. Some districts are connecting “data coaches” with the teachers’ own professional learning communities to ensure this bounty of information fulfills its pedagogical promise.

A Grand Rapids Public Schools interventionist sits with students on an academic assignment while also discussing cooperation and working together—illustrating the teaching component to the restorative justice discipline method.

Districts large and small, urban and rural, are revamping discipline as increasing numbers of experts and educators find that zero-tolerance—and widespread suspension and expulsion—has been ineffective and even discriminatory.

Donna Schulze, above, is a paraeducator at Phelps Luck School in the Howard County Public Schools in Maryland.

Paraeducators are no longer on the periphery of the classroom. Now a significant part of the learning process, they are facilitating one-on-one and small-group instruction among special needs students.

Second-graders at Walker Elementary School in the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District use Follett’s Destiny Quest mobile app to locate digital resources in libraries and on Follett Shelf.

Taking away clerical work such as manual card cataloging and checking out books means librarians can spend more time working with students on research skills and digital literacy. With today’s automation software, librarians can give book recommendations and users need only a single portal to search for digital and print resources.

District leaders seeking to acquire more technology must decide whether purchasing or leasing is more cost-effective.

As the economy continues its slow crawl out of the recession, school districts that had put off capital purchases are now replacing outdated equipment and buying new technology. However, administrators are still considering large-scale acquisitions with caution.

Booster club members attend a session presented by the National Booster Club Training Council.

Sports teams in a growing number of school districts can only return to their fields, gymnasiums, rinks and pools each September with the support of parent-run booster clubs. As budgets tighten, these clubs, which have provided high school athletes with everything from uniforms to scoreboards to travel money for competitions or games, are expanding into elementary and middle schools.

Superintendent Joshua Starr of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland crouches to speak with students in class. He is determined to support student programs during lean budget times.

Five years after the Great Recession officially ended, many superintendents continue to grapple with educating today’s students and preparing for tomorrow’s—with yesterday’s funding levels. The worst recession since the Great Depression lasted from December of 2007 to June of 2009, according to the federal government, and many superintendents are only now starting to glimpse limited financial relief.