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Current Honorees

Honoree: Alabaster City Schools Category Graduation rate

In 2013, Alabaster City Schools separated from Shelby County Schools to become its own district with 6,000 students—including 9 percent who need special education services, 1,000 who speak English as a second language, and nearly 40 percent who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Prior to separation the graduation rate had been near 89 percent, but in the new district, there was a higher percentage of students at risk of not graduating.

Honoree: Commack Union Free School District Category College/career readiness

Rigor has provided more options for students at Commack Union Free School District.

With nearly 98 percent of its graduates going on to college each year—and 80 percent earning a Regents diploma with advanced designation—Commack Union developed a well-rounded college preparatory curriculum that features coursework sponsored by the International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement and Project Lead the Way programs.

Honoree: Anchorage School District Category Blended or online learning

The online iSchool initiative in Anchorage, Alaska expands disadvantaged students’ access to advanced coursework and gives all learners more flexibility to sign up for electives, voc-tech classes and after-school activities.

Honoree: Glastonbury Public Schools Category Professional development

Adjusting to a bolder global future, leaders at Glastonbury Public Schools revamped teachers’ professional learning communities to support iPad integration in classrooms.

A 1-to-1 iPad initiative starting in 2013 at Glastonbury High School is expanding to the middle schools. Teachers must update their instructional practices and apply technology correctly.

Honoree: Chichester School District Category College/career readiness

The Chichester School District’s college acceptance rate increased 19 percent after administrators launched an initiative designed to steer economically disadvantaged students toward higher ed.

Honoree: Washoe County School District Category Student achievement

An in-house data warehouse built in 2012 gives educators in Nevada’s large Washoe County School District quick access to the academic information they need to help each student succeed.

With the Business Intelligence Gateway system, or BIG, educators can track any students’ performance and create plans to improve grades. The data, which is updated every night, also allows educators to act more quickly when they spot students who are falling off the path to graduation.

Honoree: Cuyahoga Falls City School District Category Personalized/individualized learning

Engaging students by connecting learning to their future career goals with small groups creates unique success at Cuyahoga Falls City School District in Ohio.

The district developed small learning communities in grades 7 through 12, teaching traditional curriculum through the lenses of student interests, says Superintendent Todd Nichols.

Honoree: Barrington 220 School District, Illinois Category STEM

It’s never too early to start STEM learning. At Barrington 220 School District, fifth-graders are tackling the subjects.

“Fresh INC Marketplace” is a new innovative eight-week program that launched last fall. And it could be the nation’s first elementary school entrepreneurship curriculum.

Honoree: Ovid-Elsie Area Schools Category Literacy

Uninterrupted reading for elementary students makes waves for one Michigan district.

Ovid-Elsie Area Schools is a rural district with a poverty rate of over 70 percent, and a high population of homeless students.

Honoree: Taylor County School District Category Enabling adult learners

Taylor County School District is Kentucky’s only pre-K through 12 performance-based district, with a graduation rate of 100 percent, and no dropout for the past six years.

But the parents of some children needed help. So Superintendent Roger Cook decided to use the district’s virtual academy to allow adults who had dropped out to enroll, take online courses and graduate from the district based on the requirements they would have had to meet the year they stopped attending school.

Honoree: Hermosa Beach City School District Category Student achievement

The Hermosa Beach City School District shifted away from traditional academic plans to a curriculum that includes mindfulness and social-emotional learning.

Honoree: Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township Category College/career readiness

A diversifying student body convinced an urban Indianapolis-area district to turn a building that housed vocational programs into a full-service college and career readiness center.

In 2010, the percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch climbed above 50 percent in the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, while the percentage of students of color grew to 60 percent.

Honoree: Henry Hudson Regional School Category School climate

A dog in school every day is a good thing—especially for students with special needs in New Jersey.

Henry Hudson Regional School overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and serves students from grades 7 through 12. But many students had to be placed in private schools because of Henry Hudson’s limited resources for students with autism, Asperger’s syndrome and other behavioral needs.

Honoree: Genesee Valley Educational Partnership Category College/career readiness

A broken MakerBot 3D printer inspired a school technician in upstate New York to bring the technology to more students and teachers in the Genesee Valley Educational Partnership, a collaborative of 22 rural districts in the western part of the state.

The districts had struggled to acquire the cutting-edge technology needed to shift instruction toward a student-centered model.

Honoree: Newton-Conover City Schools Category Student achievement

With funding tight, Newton-Conover City Schools launched a program in 2014 to support innovation: Instead of going to the general fund, fees collected when community groups rent district facilities could go to students and staff to develop their own projects. 

Honoree: Los Alamitos Unified School District Category Professional development

Each school in California’s Los Alamitos USD used to hire education experts for teacher training on staff development days. However, teachers were not sharing their learning across grade levels or school sites—leading to a silo effect.

Honoree: Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Category STEM

Administrators from Lee’s Summit R-7 School District in Missouri were concerned that many students were graduating from high school and college steeped in loan debt and without enough experience to secure a job.

The Missouri Innovation Campus program is a partnership between the district, the University of Central Missouri, Metropolitan Community College and local businesses that reshapes the way students experience high school and college education.

Honoree: Compton Unified School District Category Literacy

Students are helping younger students with tutoring in California.

The challenges in Compton Unified are significant: 98 percent of the students are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 35 percent are English language learners, and less than half can read on level by third grade.

The district initiated a partnership with California State University, Dominguez Hills to develop Project Reach, which recruits students to become tutors for the 22 elementary schools.

Honoree: Newport Mesa Unified School District Category Serving students with special needs

All students benefitted when Newport Mesa USD adjusted to a new state law that made districts solely responsible for providing mental health care and related educational services to students with disabilities. 

Honoree: Pearland Independent School District Category Student achievement

In 2014-15, Pearland ISD administrators and board members raised mental health concerns after three unrelated student suicides occurred within five months in the district.

Superintendent John Kelly implemented a districtwide mentoring program to provide a safe place for students to share their concerns and personal challenges.

Honoree: Downingtown Area School District Category College/career readiness

The Downingtown Area School District has broken down the barriers typical learning methods have created in high school.

Ivy Academy, a cyber and blended curriculum initiative, opened three years ago. High school teachers use their own curriculum to teach blended courses face-to-face with students two or three days out of a six-day cycle.

Honoree: Meridian CUSD 223 Category Fostering principal leadership

For years, Meridian 223 in Illinois had rampant superintendent turnover, budget constraints and a lack of leadership. Administrators, therefore, sought out a system to foster principal leadership beyond typical school improvement models.

Honoree: Hayward Unified School District Category College/career readiness

YEP Middle College exposes middle school students to introductory college-level work.

About three-quarters of Hayward USD’s students are from low-income families; 65 percent are Latino, 30 percent are English language learners, and many will be the first in their family to attend college.