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District Administration, March 2015

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Cover Story

An elementary school writing program, a comprehensive fitness regimen and vigorous college and career preparedness in all grades exemplify innovation. Such initiatives earned honors for 62 school systems in District Administration’s tri-annual Districts of Distinction awards program. In the first round of 2015, the honorees were selected among 133 nominations in 21 states.

Features

More districts now deliver speech and occupational therapy online. It’s a solution for staffing shortages, especially in less populated areas, when therapists can provide therapy, participate in IEP meetings and handle other tasks remotely.

Ninth graders in North Carolina take all their classes on the campus of a major state university. Early-college high school students in Connecticut can gain an inside track to one of the world’s largest tech companies. Online and blended learners in Michigan can spend a fifth year in high school and graduate with an associate’s degree.

Teach students math procedures if you want them to solve equations. Instill a deep conceptual understanding of mathematics and get them thinking like mathematicians, and you’ve prepared your students to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

District CIO

Students trained in IT support are providing teachers with Johnny-on-the-spot resources and bolstering the responsiveness of districts’ lean tech staffs. The eager students provide districts with an inexpensive and much-needed tech resource; and the students gain experience, new skills, and confidence.

Companies that collect student data would be barred from using or selling it for anything other than educational purposes, under a law proposed in January by President Barack Obama. Called the Student Digital Privacy Act, it would also prevent companies from using data to target advertising to students.

Opinion

Are teacher prep programs giving out A’s and honors distinctions too easily?

As the U.S. Department of Education combs through the public comments received on its proposed federal regulations for teacher preparation programs, citizens must wait—probably until late summer—to learn the fate of the vast and controversial proposal.

The plan will require states to rate teacher preparation programs based on graduates’ performance—and then tie new teaching students’ eligibility for federal financial aid to those ratings.

With the national trend of institutional achievement being measured by the number of graduates who go on to the next level of college or career, Harrison School District Two in Colorado collaborates with the community on a pioneering student success program.

Solutions

California’s La Habra City School District, under the leadership of Superintendent Susan Belenardo, motivates its students to get up and moving with several wellness programs that are part of a countywide health and obesity prevention initiative.

Briefings

You think math and English have high standards? Try the arts.

The National Core Arts Standards were released in October. They update the initial standards released in 1994, which included instructional guidelines for dance, music, theater and visual arts.

Princeton City Schools in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area has the fifth-largest complex in the state, a 555,000-square-foot education center housing a middle school, high school and community center that will be complete this year.

The superintendent and school board created a plan in 2009 to secure funding for the unprecedented project in the district. The $130 million construction cost was paid for through a bond levy, government programs and Ohio’s HB 264 Energy Conservation Program.

A magnet program in the booming field of computer game design draws career-focused high school students from across Florida’s sprawling Hillsborough County school system.

Middleton Magnet High School houses four STEM programs, including the Academy of Computer Game Design, which opened in fall 2008 with a four-year, four-course track.

For the third year in a row, policymakers are making significant investments in state-funded preschool programs. Nationwide, state funding for preschool increased by $672 million this year, to a total of $6.3 billion.

Arizona and North Dakota in January became the first two states requiring high school graduates to take a U.S. citizenship exam.

Legislators in 14 others states recently introduced similar initiatives in a what’s been labeled as an effort to better prepare students to participate in a democratic society.

Districts including Los Angeles USD and Dallas ISD will expand after-school supper programs this year, responding to the growing number of students who don’t get an evening meal at home.

Nationwide, the number of students served dinner or an after-school snack reached nearly 1 million last year. In 2010, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act expanded after-school meal programs to all 50 states after piloting them in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

A restorative justice program that focuses less on suspensions and more on students making amends for disruptive behavior is gaining traction in Oakland USD, and will be implemented in all of the district’s 86 schools over the next five years.

Today’s students may be skilled at texting and social media, but many are unable to perform online research and distinguish accurate information on the web, according to a new study.

Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born helped create a statewide anonymous tip line for schools that allows students to identify potential threats, such as a student planning to bring a weapon to school. It is now used in more than 820 districts.

Education advocacy group ASCD is calling for a two-year moratorium on using standardized test results for teacher or school evaluations. The move represents a growing push nationally to cut back on testing and limit its use as an accountability measure because it may not accurately reflect a teacher’s classroom performance.

Departments

No matter the grade or skill level, the newest mathematics tools and programs aim to make learning various math concepts an adventure.

Being adaptive, engaging and fun, products try to meet the needs of individual students while aligning with the Common Core and other state standards. Here are some of the latest math tools in light of NCTM's conference in April. Big Ideas Math

Vision: The First Critical Step in Developing a Strategy for Educational Technology

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Authors Darryl Vidal and Michael Casey provide administrators with a structured methodology for developing an educational technology vision that benefits all stakeholders and supports school and district strategic plans.

Project Lead The Way President Vince Bertram, a former superintendent, says STEM fields will present graduates with the most job prospects and highest earnings, yet there is a disconnect between who teaches those subjects, how they are taught and how they are applied in the real world.