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Lockdown drills can pose health hazards, says Dennis Lewis, president of Edu-Safe, a safety training firm.

Lewis, who spent 17 years as the public safety director for Springfield Public Schools in Missouri, shares the following best practices:

Connect instruction to safety. Rigid, step-by-step drills don’t encourage critical thinking, discussion or variations. Educators can develop lessons that, for example, encourage students to think about wider safety issues and teamwork.

Teachers today have more control over how and when they receive professional development.

Here are five strategies that school administrators are adopting to support the rising demand for special education.

Teachers across the country are creating their own more sophisticated formative assessments and using adaptive learning software to generate real-time information on how each of their students are performing.

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.

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.

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