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District Administration, April 2016

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Cover Story

School’s certainly in session for canines throughout the nation: Therapy dogs, security dogs, and service dogs walk the halls alongside students in many schools. Here is a look at five more districts that have welcomed canines into classrooms in recent years.

Features

School leaders nationwide are exploring innovative group-level groupings and thinking beyond the typical K5 elementary school, grades 6 through 8 middle school and grades 9 through 12 high school model to figure out how to continue to deliver appropriate education with fewer funds.

School’s certainly in session for canines throughout the nation: Therapy dogs, security dogs, and service dogs walk the halls alongside students in many schools. Here is a look at five more districts that have welcomed canines into classrooms in recent years.

For many districts, early retirement incentives are considered a good business practice—a way to cut top-heavy payrolls and replace teachers whose heart may no longer be in the classroom. But without good planning, these incentives can have unintended financial and academic costs. 

Collaborations between businesses and districts run deeper than internships. Business representatives help districts create curriculum and train teachers. They also volunteer as coaches and mentors to help students gain college and career readiness skills.

No matter how cutting-edge the technology or advanced the curriculum, students have a hard time mastering essays and equations if they’re hungry, traumatized or feeling marginalized by a textbook’s inaccurate portrayal of their ethnic group.

District CIO

In December, a nonprofit digital rights group filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Google is using its ubiquitous access to educational devices to mine student data so it can better target advertising at students.

Old computers may not be trendy, but as school tech budgets shrink or stagnate, many administrators try to squeeze the most life out of their aging devices. Recycling and retrofitting, and hooking up to the cloud, allow districts to delay or even abandon established schedules for buying brand-new equipment.

Opinion

Schools are encouraged—or required by law—to approach bullying as an act of defiance against authority. But such an approach focuses solely on bullying—at the exclusion of other forms of hurtful behavior.

Leadership is never more critical than when creating and sustaining a data-centric learning culture, as Lane Mills advises in a white paper on how districts can access and integrate data to make informed, proactive decisions.

Solutions

Mesquite ISD Superintendent David Vroonland says his own atypical childhood has driven his focus on teachers and improving the culture for students in need.

Briefings

Guthrie Virtual School provides state-mandated Spanish instruction to about a half-dozen remote Texas towns that couldn’t afford to hire a full-time certified teacher.

Black elementary school students are half as likely as their white peers to be assigned to gifted elementary programs in math and reading—even with comparably high test scores. But the racial gap in giftedness disappears when black students have a black teacher, according to a study.

All K12 schools in Washington are mandated by a new state law to teach Since Time Immemorial, a curriculum that focuses on the history and culture of the state’s 29 federally recognized Native American tribes.

The push to establish national academic benchmarks may have been dealt yet another blow by the Every Student Succeeds Act. Nearly two dozen states began revising the Common Core after the new law reaffirmed their authority to create their own standards.

The redesigned SAT seeks to expand opportunities for all students to go to college—but its focus on reading comprehension may make the exam more difficult for English-language learners and low-income students.

While national graduation rates hit an all-time high of 82 percent in 2014, the trend for students with disabilities remained flat at nearly 63 percent. In three states, students with disabilities graduated from high school at half the rate of their non-disabled peers.

Teachers are coming out of classrooms to build trust with parents. Teachers visit K8 students in the fall to learn more about families. A second home visit in the spring is about building academic skills and sharing information.

Total state funding for preschool programs rose by $767 million, to a total of nearly $7 billion. In the 2015-16 budget year, 32 states and the District of Columbia raised funding levels of preschool programs—ans support stemmed from both sides of the political aisle.

The amount of money raised annually by nonprofit parent-run organizations soared from $197 million in 1995 to $880 million in 2010. Aggressive fundraising to support athletic teams, buy school equipment and funds field trips further widens disparities between affluent and economically challenged districts.

Winfred Roberson Jr. was unanimously voted new superintendent of economically and culturally diverse Glendale USD in California, where he will oversee 33 schools and more than 25,000 students.

First-time Superintendent Bilal Tawwab started work at Flint Community Schools in September, prepared to take on the district’s budget deficit of $10.5 million and a number of poor-performing schools. The city’s infamous water crisis erupted during his first month at the helm of the district of 7,000 students

Departments

In their book, Transforming Ice Age Schools: A Practical Guide for School Leaders, Leighangela Brady and Lisbeth Johnson argue that, beyond superficial “fixes,” little has changed in the underlying structure of education. The result: students unprepared for the complex challenges that await them after high school.

In this objective look into a subject that has generated much debate, Ovid K. Wong and Chak Lau examine critical elements in preparing teachers and decision-makers for the tenure application process.