Bright Ideas

Bright Ideas

Planning new initiatives in the summertime.

The editors at DA have been taking advantage of a little extra time that a double issue affords us, talking to our readers at various conferences across the country, as well as checking in with industry experts as we plan our upcoming content. After all, summertime is a time for renewal.

I was able to visit the main campus of the University of Connecticut for a conference whose model looks and feels a little different from that of most conferences I attend. Confratute (part conference, part fraternity and part institute) is in its 34th year. It draws approximately 1,000 gifted educators to four days of professional development headed up by Joe Renzulli and Sally Reiss, leading educators in the area of gifted education and hosts extraordinaire to each participant. As Renzulli says, "The conference is a model for what a school should be: a lot of flexibility, a lot of personal interaction between 'teachers' and students, and opportunities for people to express themselves." Their theme was to apply the pedagogy of gifted education for total school improvement, and the interface that they work on is based on individual students' strengths and interests. The data says it's working.

As we developed this issue, the summer theme kept shining through:

    • We discuss the calendar year. For some of our readers, summer is not the same as it was 10 years ago, as many districts have moved to the single track, multitrack or extended school year. We ask, "Have these solutions really made a difference in student achievement?"
    • The summer break may be a good time to focus on a new social media strategy to stay better connected to your constituency but even more importantly, as an integrated component in everyday learning in your district.
    • We share food for thought on best practices for purchasing the products and technology that will be most effective at meeting districts' needs this year. A new Center on Education Policy report on school funding indicates that 70 percent of districts endured funding cuts in the 2010-2011 school year, and a greater percentage anticipate funding cuts in the coming year, yet we are hearing that many districts' technology purchases are on the rise.
    • And for readers new to the superintendency who are anticipating the new school year, we share colleagues' war stories—and ways not to be included in future articles on this subject.
    • Among other good summer reads in this issue is an essay on ethnic studies written by a former educator that shows through recent events how divisive this 1960s controversy continues to be for the 21st century. As you look toward launching new initiatives, we wish you much success and hope you share some of your experiences with us.

Judy Faust Hartnett, Editor in Chief jhartnett@districtadministration.com

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