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District Administration, July 2015

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Cover Story

From early-learning to entrepreneurship to the environment, innovative instruction propels students to meet more rigorous standards and graduate high school better prepared for their next steps in life.

Features

From early-learning to entrepreneurship to the environment, innovative instruction propels students to meet more rigorous standards and graduate high school better prepared for their next steps in life.

Driven by a commitment to serve all students, or by a desire to maximize state funding, some districts are offering families that educate their children at home everything from free computers to curricular guidance.

Students ease stress with stretches in elementary school yoga sessions. In another district, students taste vegetables they’ve never tried before after growing produce in a school garden. Elsewhere, more students eat healthy breakfasts they’ve grabbed from convenient to-go carts in the morning. This kind of innovation is evident across the country, as district leaders find new ways to promote health and wellness.

As transgender students win sturdier legal protections from state and federal laws, more district leaders have given members of this growing population rights to choose the names they’ll respond to at roll call, which bathrooms they’ll use and which athletic teams they’ll join.

District CIO

Getting the right education apps into classrooms isn’t as easy as reading reviews, doing a quick download and making a link available to staff. Because there isn’t a standard rating system to verify whether an app will live up to its educational claims, there’s no single best approach to matching student needs with new programs.

While technology infiltrates every aspect of K12 operations, CIOs must negotiate with various vendors to ensure students and educators can make the most out of new software and hardware.

Opinion

An enforcement agency writes a rule to solve a specific problem. Applied to other situations, the rule makes less sense.

Will the agency restrict enforcement to those situations clearly referenced in the rule or will the agency enforce the rule more broadly? Among Affordable Care Act watchers, this is a common question.

Parsing the rule

Here’s an example. Do the IRS Employer Shared Responsibility Cost final rules convert substitutes into full-time teachers for employer mandate purposes?

Student engagement is directly linked to achievement. The higher the engagement, the more successful students are in their work.

The reverse, however, is also true. Howard County Public School System chose to face this challenge head-on through a partnership with Gallup, in which school leaders, educators and students identify their own strengths, then learn ways to leverage those strengths to increase engagement and success in learning and teaching.

Solutions

Faced with a nearly 40 percent decrease in enrollment and a middle school at 33 percent capacity, Superintendent Bob Horan of Schodack CSD in upstate New York offered empty space to startup companies. 

Briefings

Districts recovering from the recession and in need of new buildings and renovations can save money over time by building net-zero energy schools, architects say.

In seven years, computer systems design jobs will be huge in the United States.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 38 percent growth in the design industry between 2012 and 2022—from 1.62 million jobs in 2012 to an estimated 2.23 million jobs in 2022. But recent reports of the lack of required computer science courses in districts and the absence of female and minority students in AP computer science courses has led some to wonder whether or not the nation will have enough skilled workers to fill these positions.

Principals in Denver Public Schools will soon have the power to purchase their own curriculum, professional development plans and testing programs.

Denver schools announced in May its move to a decentralized model for 2015-16, joining a growing urban district movement to give traditional public schools the flexibility of charters.

The American Museum of Natural History in New York City is leveraging its scientific resources to address K12 STEM education needs and to help develop future scientists.

The museum’s mission is to “discover, interpret, and disseminate, through scientific research and education, knowledge about human cultures, the natural world and the universe.” It houses more than 33 million specimens and artifacts.

New partnerships between districts and energy service companies provide much-needed funding for school sustainability upgrades that can range from installing efficient lighting to renovating entire buildings.

Energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs) allow school leaders and other public agencies to complete energy-savings projects without upfront capital costs.

Students show stronger concentration when working at standing desks, according to new research. A recent study in the International Journal of Health Promotion and Education found that students using standing desks improved their ability to stay on task in class by 12 percent—the equivalent of gaining seven minutes per hour of instruction time.

Researchers from Texas A&M and the University of Louisville studied 282 students in grades 2 through 4 for an academic year. Twenty-four classrooms were randomly chosen to receive standing desks or keep traditional seated desks.

Kelley Castlin-Gacutan was unanimously chosen superintendent of Alabama’s Birmingham City Schools in May. Birmingham City is the fourth-largest district in the state, with more than 30,000 students.

Departments

Sir Ken Robinson’s new book, Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education, builds on his belief that we are all born with immense natural talents, but by the time we’ve been through an education system, far too many of us have lost touch with them.