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District Administration, July 2016

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Cover Story

Meeting students’ psychological needs, improving STEM programs and fueling college and career access exemplify innovative solutions increasing student achievement nationwide. The 24 school systems honored in this round of District Administration’s Districts of Distinction national recognition program found creative ways to raise graduation rates and to build up administrative effectiveness.

Features

Meeting students’ psychological needs, improving STEM programs and fueling college and career access exemplify innovative solutions increasing student achievement nationwide. The 24 school systems honored in this round of District Administration’s Districts of Distinction national recognition program found creative ways to raise graduation rates and to build up administrative effectiveness.

More than five years after Congress required schools to serve healthier food, districts are using social media, technology tools and old-fashioned personal outreach to connect with parents. The goal: persuading them that today’s school meals are nothing like the sometimes unhealthy foods they remember from their own childhoods.

Literacy changes taking hold in schools recognize the subject’s expansion from traditional textbooks to online readings, images and audio. New learning standards ask students to read more closely and write more analytically, meaning teachers must adapt curriculum to get students reading earlier.

District CIO

The concept of “going virtual” has been gaining traction in the IT world for years. Today, school CIOs who have taken the next step—the virtualization of desktop computers—see a new range of benefits, including increased flexibility for users, cost savings, stronger security, and more frequent updates of hardware and software.

The use of game-based learning in the nation’s classrooms has doubled over the past five years. In 2015, 48 percent of teachers said they use games in their lessons, making them the second-most common form of digital content consumed in the classroom.

Opinion

The Every Student Succeeds Act reverses the trend of federal authority over K12 education. The new law returns state and local authority to levels that have not been seen in decades—and one of biggest changes is that ESSA increases fund transferability for key federal programs.

Solutions

Beth Schiavino-Narvaez has led Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut for two years. But it’s been two decades since a landmark state court case ruled the district had violated the U.S. Constitution by isolating children based on race and socioeconomics. And despite new budget woes, Schiavino-Narvaez continues to fight for better schools.

Briefings

Using a survey tool, biology students in 13 Maryland high schools  help environmental scientists keep an eye on pollution and other factors that might harm Chesapeake Bay or its creatures, including Maryland’s renowned blue crabs.

Few teachers receive individualized professional development, though many are expected to personalize learning for students. Microcredentials—digital badges that teachers earn by learning a skill and demonstrating mastery through student results—offer a PD pathway designed to be highly differentiated and engaging.

English language learners remain the least represented group in gifted programs—meaning districts do not sufficiently tap the talents of the growing number of immigrant students entering U.S. schools.

Miami-Dade County’s BioTECH @ Richmond Heights—a conservation-biology-focused STEM high school that opened in 2014-15 with help from an $11 million federal grant—focuses on zoology, botany, genetics, ecology, chemistry and environmental sciences.

Students in a Spanish 3 class at Bethlehem Central High School may live in upstate New York, but they look for new homes in Spanish-speaking countries around the globe.

After discovering her students were fans of HGTV’s ‘House Hunters International,’ Bethlehem Central School District Spanish teacher Jessica Westervelt developed a lesson in which her class searches Spanish-speaking countries online for vacation homes.

With the reversal the 2005 state takeover of most of New Orleans’ public schools, a charter-based district will for the first time in the United States be accountable to its local school board.

Gail Pletnick, superintendent of Dysart Unified School District 89 in Surprise, Arizona, was elected president of AASA for 2016-17.

The 2016 Arizona Superintendent of the Year and a member of AASA’s digital and personal learning consortia, Pletnick will focus on reshaping the national public education agenda and empowering district leaders through advocacy, networking and PD. She begins her term July 1.

The rights of transgender students in K12 schools became explicitly clear in a directive issued by the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice in May. Schools must let transgender students use the restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity, not what’s listed on birth certificates, the Obama administration says.

Departments

A new survey not only indicates that public school teachers are frustrated with shifting policies, but a majority are losing enthusiasm for the job. Moreover, nearly half say they would quit teaching now if they could find a higher-paying job.

Technology is a vital part of students’ lives: 92 percent of teens say they go online daily and 24 percent say they are logged in "almost constantly." One challenge for schools has been overcoming the perception that social media monitoring jeopardizes student privacy.