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Though the Chicago Teachers Union approved a new contract in September, the aftermath of their eight-day strike has led to debate over the role of teacher unions in education reform; specifically, whether unions should be allowed expansive collective bargaining and striking rights under state law, or if these rights impede reform.

The second annual Follett Challenge encourages educators to align their curriculum to teach 21st century learning skills—and is offering double the prize money as last year to those who do. Educators from all departments in schools can enter to demonstrate how their programs develop critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration between students and among educators in a 21st century setting, no matter the resources available.

Charles Glover (center) in one of many administrative meetings at Dallas ISD.

An investment in ‘human capital’ sets Dallas Independent School District apart. The term refers to the teachers and school leaders who support the classrooms. Believing that a team of quality teachers is the single greatest component to moving his district’s students’ academics forward, Dallas Superintendent Mike Miles restructured the district’s human resources department so it would focus more on recruiting and developing an outstanding cadre of instructors.

Although best practices in student instruction and learning have evolved dramatically over the past couple of decades, new approaches to educator professional development have lagged behind considerably. The traditional whole group, one-size-fits-all strategy universally recognized as ineffective for teaching students, has too-long remained the status quo for many school and districts leaders.

Five years ago, a pair of science teachers at Woodland Park (Colo.) High School turned their pedagogical approach upside down. Rather than stand up in front of the classroom, Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams sent their respective students home with videos of themselves lecturing. And rather than assigning traditional homework, work that most students could get tripped up on if they are not sure about a certain topic, the teachers gave students time in class—with their close supervision and help—to put their learning into practice.

On July 30, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a nonprofit dedicated to closing the achievement gap, released a study that, according to David Keeling, vice president of communications, tells a story of systemic neglect for our nation’s best teachers.

In May, the district rolled out a one-of-its-kind school bus that serves as a professional development site for teachers.

Professional development in the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Unified School District just got mobile—and we don’t mean tablets. In May, the district rolled out a one-of-its-kind school bus that serves as a professional development site for teachers to become acquainted with new technology before it’s introduced in the classroom. The purpose of the bus, which was dubbed eCoach, is to create an innovative environment for professional development and to deliver this technology seamlessly across all 31 schools in the district.

Teachers need training, professional development, curriculum ideas, and avenues to brainstorm with peers—all at the right time to make an impact in their classroom. This DA Web seminar, originally presented on May 16, 2012, demonstrated how schools are using Blackboard Collaborate to set up synchronous PD sessions where teachers can learn and connect throughout the school year, without having to leave the classroom. The event featured case studies from Georgia’s Cobb County School District and the Pennsylvania Virtual Charter School.

Next school year, teachers will use diary maps to update their lessons based on student success.

About 100 miles northeast of Indianapolis, Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corporation, or RBBCSC, comprised of 3,000 students and 200 teachers, has struggled to update its curricula year after year. This was an especially tedious project last summer when the suburban district aligned their English language arts and math curricula to the Common Core State Standards and Indiana’s state standards. Teachers spent hours creating curriculum binders that were rarely used because they cannot be updated easily.

Industry experts and district technology officers offered a number of thoughts on what K12 school systems should know before investing in a new or upgraded student information system. The questions they suggest asking are: