Schools Nationwide Best Practices
The Holmes Education Post recognizes schools that are demonstrating best practices in education. These practices may include civic or service learning activities, special programs, events and recognitions of stakeholders in various schools across the nation. As such, below are narratives of best practices for November 2012:
Boulder Valley School District (BVSD):
Boulder Valley School District held a mock presidential election for its students on November 6th, 2012. Prior to the election, Monarch K-8 students prepared for the voting by talking about the candidates, learning about the election process and making posters and commercials for their candidates.
BVSD is one of 539 school districts across 44 of the 50 states in the U.S. and Canada being honored by the College Board with placement on the 3rd Annual AP® District Honor Roll for simultaneously increasing access to Advance Placement® course work while increasing the percentage of students earning scores of three or higher on AP Exams. Since 2010, BVSD has increased the number of students participating in AP by seven percent while improving the percentage of students earning AP Exam scores of three or higher by one percent.
Dallas Independent School District (DISD):
Dallas Independent School District conducted a climate survey of its staff and the results showed that the majority of teachers and other district employees believe that their schools are heading in the right direction. According to DISD, more than10,000 employees responded to the survey, including 78 percent of district teachers and 67 percent of all staff members.
Douglas County School District (DCCD):
While many schools are struggling to balance their operating budget, DCSD announced that its district will have no budget cuts for the 2013 – 2014 School Year. According to superintendent Dr. Liz Fagen, “We have reviewed the state revenue forecast, we have reviewed the Governor’s budget proposal, and we have reviewed possible increased costs in the district for next year – like PERA, health insurance premiums, and fuel costs – and we have determined that given the stability and excellent fiscal health of our budget, we will be making no budget reductions for next year. This is great news for our students and our employees.”
Following a difficult economic climate and five years of pay freezes and budget cuts, DCSD worked diligently last year to balance the budget and plan for the increased costs curve. Last year, DCSD faced an $18 M budget deficit. The district constructed a budget package with three goals in mind: to prepare every student to compete on the world stage for any college or career of their choice, improve the quality of life for employees and continue to improve the fiscal health of the district.
As a result of budget work, DCSD reduced central budget lines by approximately $12 M, reduced $1.5M from its high schools, reduced $2M through contract negotiations and increased funding to middle and elementary schools. The district also provided all employees with a three percent compensation increase as well as increased benefits.
Douglas County School District launches a pay-for-performance program. According to Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Fagan, “Our goal is to attract and retain the very best teachers and employees for our students. One of the reasons we are so confident in the effectiveness of this program is the number of great teachers already educating students in classrooms across our district.” For further information go to:www.dcsdk12.org/strategicplan/systemperformance/payforperformance.
Approximately 4,000 eighth-graders in DCSD participated in a Career Expo at the Douglas County Event Center sponsored by a group of business leaders and educational professionals. The Expo was a one-day event that allowed eight graders to explore a wide range of career opportunities, interview business leaders and meet with higher education representatives. The Expo goals are to provide a career and college awareness opportunity to middle school students, engage the business community to “grow their own pipeline” of highly qualified employees and assist students with a better understanding of career opportunities and how their education can prepare them for future jobs.
DCCD’s Chaparral High School students who take medical courses at the school was offered the opportunity to gain pre-med experience by participating in a simulated emergency room situations during a visit to the Center for Advancing Professional Excellence (CAPE) at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora.
Jeffco Public Schools (JPS):
Jeffco Public Schools participated in the observing and honoring of military veterans and their families. Many JPS schools scheduled events to serve as expressions of their gratitude to those veterans who have served and continue to serve the country. Schools and community organizations worked together to create patriotic tributes to include flag raisings, color guard presentations, Wall of Honor tributes and musical performances. They also invited veterans from their community to speak and share their experiences with students.
Mesa Public Schools (MPS):
Mesa Public Schools librarians coordinated a service-learning project with elementary students honoring veterans. For instance, kindergarten through sixth-grade students in MPS studied all branches of the military during activities presented in their library resource centers. With respect and honor, students thanked veterans for their time, service to America, dedication and perseverance. This service-learning project produced four large boxes full of notes and cards. They were delivered to the Phoenix Veterans Hospital to be shared with patients on Veterans Day.
MPS was awarded the highest form of recognition for accounting and financial reporting by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada. Its attainment represents a significant accomplishment by a government and its management. The GFOA is a nonprofit professional association serving approximately 17,500 government finance professionals. Financial reports are judged annually by an impartial panel to meet the high standards of the program, including demonstrating a constructive and clearly communicated “spirit of full disclosure.”
Oakland Unified School District (OUSD):
In unity with Latino community partners, OUSD offered its 2nd Annual Latino Parent Conference for all parents (Pre-K-12) from all schools. The purpose of the conference was to give parents concrete information and model activities on how to support their children for college and career from Pre-K-12th grade and within the frame of college and career readiness. The conference was also designed to inform parents of the shift to Common Core State Standards, and what they can do to support their child in this transition.
OUSD’s I’Asha Warfield was named California Teacher of the Year. The seventh grade English teacher at East Oakland’s Frick Middle School was one of five teachers recognized by the California Department of Education. Warfield was the only teacher chosen to represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition.
Peoria Unified School District (PUSD):
Ellen Marin, a Title I Science Teacher at Frontier Elementary School, received the Chairman’s Educator of the Year Award for 2012 at the Challenger Space Center Arizona. This award recognizes educators who have utilized the Challenger science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs as an integral part of their classroom curriculum. This award also recognizes the STEM educators who work together with the education community, corporations and community foundations to positively affect the 166,000 STEM related jobs that Arizona will need to fill by 2018. In addition to attending an awards ceremony and dinner presentation at the Space Center, Marin received a simulator tour with former astronaut William G. Gregory, who served as a pilot on a research mission aboard the Space Shuttle with record mission duration of 16 days and 15 hours.
During Internet Safety Week, PUSD students completed the district’s first Anti-Bullying Art and Video Contest. Students in kindergarten through 12th grade were asked to create a visual representation of the theme, “It isn’t big to make others feel small.” Afterward, the top four entries from various grade levels and the winning art work will be used in a variety of anti-bullying messages throughout the district.
Portland Public Schools:
More than 400 Vestal K-8 students, parents and community members enjoyed a live conversation with International Space Station astronauts. Vestal K-8 was one of 24 school communities nationwide invited to participate in a conversation with astronauts about the International Space Station. The broadcast is part of the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program. According to Vestal Principal Susan Foxman, “This was an amazing, unforgettable opportunity for all our K-8 students. It was thrilling when our eighth grade students stepped up to the microphone, asked their question and heard it answered by the astronauts in real time.
The event was sponsored by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education’s Student Spaceflight Experiment Program (SSEP). The featured speakers included ISS Astronauts Suni Williams, Kevin Ford and Leland Melvin, Arne Duncan (U.S. Secretary of Education), John R. Dailey (Director, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum), Claudine Brown (Smithsonian Institution) and Jeff Goldstein (Director, National Center for Earth and Space Science Education).
Seattle Public Schools (SPS):
Six of Seattle Public Schools have been recognized for outstanding academic improvements in math and reading that place them in the top five percent of the highest-improving schools in the state. These schools include Greenwood Elementary School, Hamilton International Middle School, Jane Addams K-8, McClure Middle School, Mercer Middle School and Wing Luke Elementary School. Mercer Middle and International Middle have won the award four and three years in a row respectively. According to SPS Superintendent José Banda, “We are honored to have our six schools recognized with this prestigious award. It reflects the ongoing achievement of our students in math and reading, thanks to our strong teachers…”
Hundreds of Seattle-area students, parents and community members participated in Washington State University’s (WSU) Imagine U @ College! Program at Garfield High School. Imagine U @ College! is a unique program that educates people on the benefits of a college education, how to apply for admission and pay tuition and how to be successful in college.“We are excited to partner with WSU on this event,” said Janet Blanford, college and career readiness manager for SPS. “It give students in Seattle the opportunity to learn about some of the wonderful programs WSU has to offer as well as learn more general information that will help them no matter what their post-high school plans are.”
We sincerely thank these schools for sharing their newsworthy stories and encourage others to do likewise.