As widespread adoption of the Common Core State Standards moves ever closer, the initiative is coming under attack from both the left and right. But school district leaders must ignore the politics and focus on the practical realities of implementation: costs, technology, and training, K12 leaders say.
Superintendent Joe Kitchens thinks technology will keep students in school and on track to graduate. The 20-year-leader of the Western Heights school district in suburban Oklahoma City is focusing on a strong telecommunications network and analyzing student data through various platforms to raise the 63 percent graduation rate.
Today, the Merrillville Community Schools Corporation, located in a suburban town outside Gary, Ind., is an award-winning district, having achieved a 90 percent graduation rate in 2012 with 78 percent of its students demonstrating proficiency in English, math, and science.
Knox County Schools is a flourishing district in Tennessee, with most of its 15 high schools having graduation rates above 90 percent. Within the last five years, the district has also has also seen modest gains in reading/language arts, math, science, and social studies as measured by the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests for grades 3 through 8.
The role of the chief state school officer is becoming increasingly political, with the rise of tough accountability standards and mounting tension over the funding of charter schools.
These pressures were on display in August, when Florida Commissioner of Education Tony Bennett resigned amid accusations that, while serving as Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction last year, he changed the grading formula to benefit charter schools, including one backed by a prominent Republican donor.
A Nebraska superintendent has added his own program to the increasing number of academies designed to teach his peers critical management skills that they may not have learned during their formal education.
Keith Lutz, superintendent of Millard Public Schools in Omaha, Neb., worked with two professors from the University of Nebraska to develop the Midlands Superintendent Academy for new administrators. Classes, which began this fall at the university, focus on topics such as strategic planning, structuring district administrations, and marketing.
With his position as Bridgeport (Conn.) Public School superintendent in jeopardy, Paul Vallas’ fate will be decided by the state Supreme Court in September, Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers ruled.
In early July, Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ordered that Vallas leave office immediately, after ruling that the national education reform figure is not properly certified for the position in the state. Later that month, the Supreme Court approved Vallas to stay on the job during the appeal process.
Oceanographer David L. Evans was appointed executive director of the National Science Teachers Association in February, and will work to promote STEM education and professional development for the Next Generation Science Standards.
“Every day on my way home from work I ask myself one question: ‘Did I do anything today that affected the life of one child positively?’” says Rock Hill (S.C.) Public Schools Superintendent Lynn B. Moody.