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District Administration, December 2014

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Cover Story

Continuing to recognize the best of the best, the editors of District Administration magazine are proud to present this year’s 2014 Readers’ Choice Top 100 Products, which were selected from more than 2,400 unique nominations. Up from 1,800 nominations in 2013, this is yet another record-breaking year.

Features

Some school employees face getting the short end of the stick as district leaders work to comply with new Affordable Care Act requirements while juggling tight budgets.

District mail rooms used to be hectic. Thousands of pieces of mail would cycle in and out every month, and all of it had to be processed by hand. But these days, life is much easier for office administrators who, still, must sort through the pieces of mail.

Although teachers have long coached colleagues and developed curriculum informally and without compensation, teacher leadership programs aim to formalize the role by instituting rigorous selection processes, training and pay.

District CIO

Whether devices are tablets or laptops, or owned by the school or the student, they all require IT support. Recent support developments include bundling digital learning applications and the physical device with the cost of mobile device management (MDM) software.

States are ramping up student data privacy laws, with lawmakers in the 2014 legislative cycle passing 30 of 120 proposed bills aimed at protecting personal information.

The most comprehensive law was passed in California in September. It prohibits educational sites, apps and cloud services from selling or disclosing students’ personal information. The data also cannot be used to target advertising to students.

Opinion

Truly effective leaders blend elements of coaching with their leadership skills to build trust and maximize the power of social interactions. But when it comes to working with other administrators to hone their skills, the need to coach a coach takes on a greater level of importance.

Massachusetts has led the nation with the top National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for the fifth consecutive time on fourth- and eighth-grade reading and mathematics assessments.

While we realize that unknown variables are part of the equation, it was this statistical preeminence that led us to send a team from Somerville Public Schools in New Jersey to the Northbridge School District in Massachusetts to investigate instructional practices.

Solutions

You could say it’s understandable that Kent Scribner’s hobby is working on a 1985 black El Camino. Refurbishing a car takes patience, dedication and an eye for potential. Those are the same qualities this superintendent has been bringing to the Phoenix Union High School District in Arizona since taking over in 2008.

Briefings

The Common Core is presenting a new challenge—and offering little guidance—to special education teachers working to keep their students on pace with their peers.

As baby boomers retire and school enrollment steadily increases, more districts are searching internationally to find candidates for difficult-to-fill math and science positions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that districts will need to hire nearly half a million teachers by the end of the decade.

In September, the Karner Blue Education Center opened its brand new doors to some 100 K8 special education students in the Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District in Minnesota.

Preschool participation, academic achievement and high school graduation rates are rising for America’s growing population of Hispanic students, who continue to trail their white peers in many areas of academic success, according to a new report.

Superintendent John Deasy of Los Angeles USD resigned in October after reaching a settlement with the city’s school board. His 3 ½-year tenure included increased academic achievement and graduation rates in LAUSD despite economic hardships, the district stated.

Twitter has become the new education conference—and it’s in session all day, every day of the year, some educators now say.

Principals, teachers, tech experts and other educators have created dozens of robust, professional learning networks—also called Twitter chats—to connect with each other and share solutions to common challenges.

Sledding hills across the country may be a bit quieter this winter as snowstorms no longer mean a break from schoolwork for some students. An increasing number of districts are using e-learning to keep class in session during bad weather and to meet the required number of instruction days without having to add makeups to the calendar.

Departments

A photo on Scott McLeod’s popular “Dangerously Irrelevant” blog carries the caption, “We’re so busy doing 20th century teaching, we don’t have time to initiate 21st century learning.” McLeod, an associate professor of educational leadership, is concerned that an education system that doesn’t embrace technology won't prepare students to compete in the knowledge-based economy.