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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 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.   

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Educators constantly face new challenges that often require resources that may be in short supply. But this round’s Districts of Distinction honorees show a surplus of exemplary creativity, innovation and problem-solving skills that are increasing student achievement and graduation rates and, most importantly, facilitating education.

Speakers at upcoming conferences (clockwise from top left): Rochelle Gutierrez will speak at NCTM about the next generation mathematics for all; Lisa Nyberg will speak at NSTA about giving students more ownership of their education; Deborah Gaston and  Andrea Kantrowitz will speak at NAEA about adding arts to the sciences.

At three annual conferences this spring—the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), the National Art Education Association (NAEA) and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)—experts and educators will offer guidance in developing STEAM instruction across a range a subjects and projects.

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