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District Administration, October 2016

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Cover Story

Young refugees who have fled foreign war zones, religious violence and dire poverty represent some of the country’s most “at-risk” students. In one New York district, for instance, refugee students who recently heard alarms during a fire drill worried the school was being bombed.


When only 13 percent of sophomores at the Grandview School District in Washington passed the state math exams six years ago, administrators decided to develop their own curriculum.

When the next president takes office in January, he or she will preside over major shifts in the K12 education landscape—from implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act and Common Core, to the rollout of nationwide STEM initiatives, to the simmering battles over charters, school choice and teachers unions.

Shortly after a teacher inadvertently gave almond biscotti to a student allergic to dairy and nuts, Deerfield Public Schools Superintendent Michael Lubelfeld convened the first of several meetings for parents of students with allergies.

Young refugees who have fled foreign war zones, religious violence and dire poverty represent some of the country’s most “at-risk” students. In one New York district, for instance, refugee students who recently heard alarms during a fire drill worried the school was being bombed.

District CIO

Using tablets, apps and YouTube videos, students at a Minnesota elementary school have added new virtual elements to paintings and other artwork, so their masterpieces include videos that not only get them engaged, but also help them better understand ideas behind the art itself.

Most educators are enrolling in online professional learning courses. The most common areas are classroom and behavior management, education software training and digital device training.


Elementary schools differ in many ways—even within the same district—but new principals can follow leadership practices in keeping the focus on teaching and learning every school day.

Inquiry-based learning means asking questions that demand students use evidence from the text to support their thinking. It means challenging students to respond to the differing ideas of their classmates. And it means pushing students to further their own thinking.


For decades, the J. Sterling Morton High School District in the Chicago suburbs was in bad shape. In 2008, when Michael Kuzniewski became superintendent, he vowed to change all that, with help from a new school board.


A project for young children with physical challenges enabled a group of high school students in Howard County Public Schools’ allied health and engineering academies to tailor motorized miniature cars to improve accessibility for some of the district’s preschool students.

High school math classes focus traditionally on solving equations. The world of mathematical modeling emphasizes creating equations.

The nonprofit Association of Computational and Mathematical Modeling is developing a free mathematical modeling curriculum that it plans to share with teachers by early 2017. It will show students how to construct equations that solve complex real-world engineering, science and computing problems.

Four years of development in Michigan has produced an arts platform where educators can share a curriculum and better methods for assessing student work. The instructional materials align with the Every Student Succeeds Act, which emphasizes the arts as part of a “well-rounded education.”

By revamping the much-maligned No Child Left Behind law of 2001 with the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, the federal government gives states more control over their own school accountability standards. How much change occurs will depend directly on each state’s legislative actions

One elementary school in Minnesota riffed on the wildly popular Pokémon Go app to create its own virtual reality game that helps incoming students feel more comfortable with beginning the school year in an unfamiliar building.

Public support for the Common Core standards is plummeting—but that doesn’t mean much to K12. Half of the general population approves of the standards—that’s down from 83 percent just three years ago. Support among teachers has fallen to only 44 percent, according to the latest Education Next survey

Harrisonburg City Public Schools in Virginia incorporates a technical- and engineering-based STEM curriculum starting with kindergarten and continuing right through high school.

The nation needs more STEM-focused youths, as only 16 percent of American high school seniors are proficient in math and interested in a STEM career, according to the U.S. Department of Education (DOE).

The FBI is trying to prevent American youths from joining violent extremist groups—but some K12 groups worry it might unknowingly exacerbate bullying and bigotry in classrooms.

State Sen. Julie Morrison of Illinois sponsored a law requiring students in all driver’s ed classes to receive instruction on how to interact with a police officer during a traffic stop. The goal is to teach them how to respond properly when pulled over, and help them avoid panicking or doing anything that might escalate a situation.


Julie Lindsay believes that, in today’s increasingly turbulent societies, it is vital that children experience other cultures and develop the skills that will help them in a connected world. Empowering educators with the tools to foster this environment in the classroom is a critical part of the process.

SIS vendors are working to develop technologies that work across all platforms and are cloud-based. Particular effort is being devoted to the design of user interfaces to create easy and intuitive functionality so that accessing an SIS is as simple as navigating a social media program on a phone.