A one-to-one laptop program with the goal of providing all high school students with a laptop by 2016.
A school accountability system that includes not just test scores and graduation rates but how schools are supporting students outside of the classroom.
And the purposeful inclusion of the community in the schools, from installing washers and dryers in schools for parents’ use, a food pantry for the community, and regular meetings with various stakeholders—parents, police, local government officials and business owners—to collaborate on ways to help students.
These are all programs and initiatives spearheaded by some of the educators who will be honored early next year as part of Education Week’s Leaders To Learn From, the annual special issue that highlights school district leaders that are engaging in innovative approaches to improve their schools.
Among this year’s early honorees are Houston’s superintendent, Terry Grier, and its chief technology information officer, Lenny Schad, who have worked on the phased roll-out of the district’s “PowerUp” initiative. Under PowerUp, all of the district’s 65,000 high school students will have a laptop for use at school and at home. When fully implemented, it will dramatically change the way that Houston’s students are taught in secondary school—there will be no textbooks at the high school level.
In Tacoma, Wash., Deputy Superintendent Josh Garcia oversaw the implementation of a “whole child” accountability system that takes into account how schools support students outside of the regular math and English language arts assessments. For example, schools are graded on student participation in extracurricular activities, adult volunteerism in their schools, and their efforts to reconnect with dropouts.
Garcia says that “whole child” approach is working. He points to a rise in pre-K enrollment, an increase in the number of student enrolling in college-level courses and a graduation rate that has climbed to 78 percent from 55 percent.
And in the small city of Jennings, Mo., which neighbors Ferguson, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson made it her goal to improve the schools by engaging the entire community, which struggles with high poverty rates.
To that end, Anderson and her staff have worked with community organizations to ensure that students are clean and fed so they can pay attention and learn when they are in class. She’s actively worked to bring parents into the school to participate in their children’s’ learning.
You can find a sneak preview of the four leaders here. The other honorees will be announced in February.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.