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District Administration, January 2016

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Cover Story

District Administration presents its Year Ahead edition to help K12 educators navigate the new year. This special edition offers in-depth stories focused on the future of leadership, smart classrooms, assessments and standards, and technology. You’ll also results from reader surveys on curriculum, outsourcing, technology trends and facilities.

Features

Klint W. Willert

Superintendent, Brookings School District, South Dakota

Topic: Testing & assessment

Trend: Student achievement is measured by more than a single assessment score. The trend of moving toward multiple measures, not just a test score, to determine the quality of a teacher, a school, and district will continue to resound with the voting public. People are joining a new TEA Party - Tested Enough Already.

The new year may send familiar education challenges in new directions as administrators grapple with an uncertain testing landscape, staff shortages, the increased push for equity and constantly increasing charter competition.

Experts expect education budgets in most states to remain flat in 2016. The pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should uphold the current Title I formula (aiding two-thirds of U.S. states) but reduce competitive grants.

Students three years from now will use two or three mobile devices in the classroom compared to the current ratio of one device to every two student. A steady decline in cost and expanding capabilities make the technology even more viable for K12 education.

As we head into 2016, teachers need to captivate and inspire collaboration with tools that excite students and let them express themselves. Students expect innovations that ignite learning passions that will steer them toward their future career.

With students in grades 3 through 11 spending more than 20 hours per school year on testing, resistance and frustration over standardized assessments and learning standards may have reached critical mass.

District Administration presents its Year Ahead edition to help K12 educators navigate the new year. This special edition offers in-depth stories focused on the future of leadership, smart classrooms, assessments and standards, and technology. You’ll also results from reader surveys on curriculum, outsourcing, technology trends and facilities.

District CIO

Cyberattacks on high-profile companies such as Target and The Home Depot have driven a growing number of school CIOs and administrators to purchase cyber insurance policies in attempts to avoid costly litigation from a data breach.

Such policies protect digital and print data, such as student and staff social security numbers, addresses and payroll. The insurance often covers notification and investigation costs, legal assistance, and sometimes media relations after a breach.

Opinion

The reform movement has been, and perhaps always will be, on-going.

We have witnessed the enactment of No Child Left Behind, which had the admirable goal of having all children read on grade level by 2014. That was followed by Race to the Top, another program that required standardized testing.

Amidst the deluge of interventions—and despite noble intentions—we still lack a coherent, causal understanding of the mechanisms that can solve the achievement gap at scale. Unsurprisingly, efforts to close chronic achievement gaps continue to fall flat.

Applying the pedagogy of gifted education to all classrooms can lead to total school improvement. That is the aim of my work, an enrichment-infusion process called the “schoolwide enrichment model,” or SEM.

“Curricular infusion” simply means that we do not argue with the reality of today’s standards and test-driven approaches to school improvement. Rather, we examine materials and teaching strategies that can make the prescribed curriculum more interesting and enjoyable.

Solutions

An engineering project in a Tennessee high school grew into a mission to build an innovative dome to grow fresh food for a Central American orphanage. The adventure inspired Cleveland City Schools Director Martin Ringstaff to spread a personalized, project-based learning approach to more of his students.

Briefings

The vast majority of states require student growth and achievement to be factored into teacher and principal evaluations.

But most states and districts are now grappling with the practical realities of implementing those policies, according to the October report “State of the States 2015: Evaluating Teaching, Leading and Learning” from the National Council on Teacher Quality.

Half of U.S. states fail to provide adequate financial literacy education in high schools, according to a report released by Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy, a partnership among several financial institutions, non-profits and governmental agencies in Vermont.

In partnership with Northwestern University, Chicago Public Schools has been offering its first-ever MOOC—or massive open online course—to the district’s high school students.

The course, called “Career 911: Your Future Job in Medicine and Healthcare,” aims to introduce students to the health care job field.

Districts must navigate a larger number of titles and skill sets when hiring qualified literacy specialists to implement new learning standards and to improve students’ reading and writing performance.

Traditionally, a reading specialist worked in small groups or one-on-one with struggling students.

Social-emotional learning programs improve the grades and behavior of all learners—but special ed students may benefit even more from lessons on mindfulness, self-regulation and cooperation, experts say.

Districts facing rising English language learner populations and teacher shortages have turned to Puerto Rico for quality bilingual teachers who don’t need a visa to work on the U.S. mainland. Dallas ISD, for example, hired 350 teachers from Puerto Rico for 2015-16.

Teaching students to dream high is one thing. Teaching them how to help others fly safely is something left to ambitious districts.

The rapid spread of 1-to-1, BYOD and online lessons in K12 districts has brought the concept of digital citizenship—the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use—to the forefront for school administrators.

School superintendents and principals should promote, model and establish policies for safe, legal and ethical use of digital technology, as well as responsible social interactions, according to the ISTE Standards for Administrators, released last May.

A first-of-its-kind Connecticut law allows parents to include their child’s paraprofessional in school planning and placement team meetings that create individualized educational programs.

Malika Anderson became superintendent of the Achievement School District in Tennessee this month. She had been the district’s No. 2 official.

The state-run, turnaround district was created in 2010 with a Race to the Top grant. It takes the bottom-performing 5 percent of schools in the state and assigns them to charter operators to help move them to the top 25 percent.

Departments

The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups

Viking

Children come into the world hardwired to learn in virtually any setting and about any matter. Yet in today’s preschool and kindergarten classrooms, learning has been reduced to scripted lessons and suspect metrics that too often undervalue a child’s intelligence while overtaxing the child’s growing brain.

Since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, there have been an estimated 262 other school and college shooting incidents. Tragic as they are, each incident reveals another piece to the puzzle of why such events occur and how to prevent them, says forensic psychologist J. Reid Meloy.