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District Administration, April 2015

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Cover Story

Transportation may be the most complex and costly issue. But to keep homeless students from dropping out or falling too far behind in class, administrators have to tapped into federal funds and community donations to provide tutoring, school supplies, extra meals and clothing, among other necessities.

Features

When four South Carolina districts joined forces in 2013 to compete for a federal Race to the Top grant, their shared educational vision was clear: Teach students to be creative innovators and independent learners. The challenge was finding a model to encompass all the sweeping changes they wanted to implement.

Although a strong partnership between school board and superintendent is widely seen as crucial to district success, administrators and the non-educators filling board seats do not always receive training in how a disparate group of individuals becomes an effective team.

As today’s students find themselves deciding money matters long before adulthood, progressive districts are introducing financial literacy lessons in elementary and middle grades—with some requiring high school students to complete a personal finance program to graduate.

Transportation may be the most complex and costly issue. But to keep homeless students from dropping out or falling too far behind in class, administrators have to tapped into federal funds and community donations to provide tutoring, school supplies, extra meals and clothing, among other necessities.

District CIO

Landlines are out and internet-based phones are in for many schools this year, as the modernized E-rate program begins scaling back funds for traditional phone service.

Discount rates for long-distance calling, cell phones and other services will drop by 20 percent every year starting this year, as determined in the July 2014 E-rate Modernization Order adopted by the FCC. E-rate funds for email, web hosting, paging and phone directory assistance were completely eliminated this year.

Attacks by external hackers on Sony and Target make big headlines, but in K12 the threats more often come from the inside. Plaguing districts with increasing frequency are distributed denial of service attacks that, for pure mischief’s sake, saturate servers with so many external communications requests that they cannot respond to legitimate school traffic.

Opinion

Meriden, Connecticut, is a struggling, former industrial city, once known for its silver manufacturing, lamp producers, military product development, and automotive component assembly plants.

We were both born there, to parents who had little more than each other and a dream for their children. We were poor. We were the statistic.

Yet, just as we were unleashed from the grip of poverty, so too can millions of other children break free. We chose education as a profession because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of children.

Our growing district faced numerous facility challenges in the fall of 2013. The only way to address these needs was with a $160 million school bond—the largest in our district’s history. What made this campaign different for us was the extensive use of social media and a very coordinated information campaign.

Solutions

Presidio ISD, a remote, Title I, poverty-stricken Texas border district with a 98 percent Hispanic population, didn’t let limited financial resources block its goal of cultivating college-going ambitions among its nearly 1,400 students.

By leveraging a University of Texas partnership and creating a technology-infused community initiative, Superintendent Dennis McEntire and the district offered students remote access to learning opportunities over 200 miles away.

Briefings

Nine out of 10 students recognize the importance of developing technology skills early to ensure they are prepared to enter the workforce, according to new research published by CompTIA, an information technology industry association.

The September 2014 survey of 1,000 middle school students further found that most rate their tech skills as average or above. In the study—“The Changing Classroom: Perspectives from Students and Educators on the Role of Technology”—students also said they wanted more instruction in the following:

Big data and analytics now offer districts some clues about which teacher candidates will be the most effective in the classroom.

These programs are designed to accurately gauge the impact teacher candidates will have on student test scores. Analytics companies such as TeacherMatch and Hanover Research are working with hundreds of districts nationwide to aid in the hiring process.

New York City students may soon learn formal lessons on climate change as a proposed curriculum continues to win endorsements from leading environmental groups.

Two groups, the Alliance for Climate Education and Global Kids, have been encouraging the New York State Department of Education to add climate change to the city’s K12 curriculum.

The effort, centered on Resolution 0375-2014 now before the New York City Council, was endorsed in February by The Natural Resources Defense Council.

Though known as a cradle of American history in colonial times, Boston was also a hotbed of desegregation in the 1960s and 1970s.

Boston Public Schools has mandated a new curriculum to teach students about the civil rights movement in the city. The History of Boston Busing and Desegregation curriculum marks the 40th anniversary of the decision—which was controversial in 1974—to desegregate city schools and allow children to be bussed outside of their neighborhoods.

Oakland USD created the Office of African American Male Achievement to develop a sense of pride and identity in the black male student community, in hopes of raising achievement and eliminating harmful discipline policies. Now, other large districts across the nation are following suit to close achievement gaps and to help this population reach college- and career-readiness.

A northeastern Tennessee school district has more than doubled the daily salary of highly qualified substitute teachers to entice them to teach in low-income schools or those that are struggling academically.

A regular Knox County Public Schools sub is paid $68 per day, but an already certified teacher or district retiree can now earn up to $164.

Students who have lived through tragedy—from Newtown, Connecticut, to Joplin, Missouri—have found comfort in a source not often seen in schools: golden retrievers.

The phrase “college and career readiness” invades education discussions from classroom technology to the Common Core. But what does it mean? Now, 32 states and the District of Columbia have called for the development and adoption of a statewide college and career readiness definition.

Students in two Arizona districts will soon share the hallways with digital screens that display promotions for local and national vendors. This technological incursion is furthering a national debate over whether this kind of marketing is appropriate for students.

Los Angeles USD students will not receive iPads, after all.

In February, LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines told reporters that he does not believe the district has the funds to pay for technology for every student.

Districts in the midst of Common Core implementation are increasingly turning to instructional coaches to help teachers master the new skills needed.

Administrators say these coaches, whose positions were cut in many districts during the recession, are now a valuable investment for time-strapped principals working to ensure schools are transitioning smoothly to the new standards.

Joseph Davis was named superintendent of the Ferguson-Florissant School District in Missouri in February. He is currently the superintendent of Washington County Schools in rural Plymouth, North Carolina.

Davis will be the second African-American superintendent in Ferguson-Florissant, which came into the national spotlight after the shooting of teenager Michael Brown. The district is in danger of losing its state accreditation for the next academic year due to low test scores.

Departments

From sports to exercise routines, the latest programs and activities in physical education aim to get students motivated and excited about being fit.

Fitness monitors and other new technology allow teachers, parents and students to track progress or stream fitness videos to mobile devices. These programs offer the flexibility to work out inside or outdoors.

Adventure to Fitness

Adventure to Fitness

The number of U.S. students who come from low-income families has long been the metaphorical elephant in the room when it comes to education funding. But, according to a new report by the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation, it’s a problem that can no longer be ignored.