Districts of Distinction: Self-sufficiency solves K12 problems

Supporting students in their lives outside school pays off in the classroom

Today’s education leaders increasingly take it upon themselves to tackle the external challenges their students and teachers confront beyond school hours. These varied solutions also stretch back into classrooms to enhance instruction and increase achievement.

The 45 schools and systems recognized by this year’s District of Distinction program have created homegrown initiatives to support students’ social-emotional development, to provide powerful new opportunities for career-focused STEM learning and to improve the skills of educators.

Our most remote honoree (by far) serves students on Prince of Wales Island in southern Alaska, which can be reached only by boat or seaplane. Administrators in the Southeast Island School District connected learning with nutrition.

To get once-scarce and expensive fresh fruit to students, educators there built greenhouses—powered by wood boilers and fertilized by a fish farm—for students to manage.

More districts have also made mental health a high priority. Ocean City School District in New Jersey and Hamburg Central School District in New York, for example, have engaged their communities and implemented professional development to ensure adults know how to respond when students are struggling emotionally.

Rural districts, meanwhile, continue to provide advanced science instruction far away from college campuses, major corporations and other urban resources. In Texas, educators at tiny Comstock ISD near the Mexico border have teamed students with archaeologists to digitally map a local cemetery and to document cave paintings.

These district solutions serve as models for other districts, and cover the K12 spectrum, from English language learners to dropout prevention to data-driven decision-making to water conservation.

For more information about Districts of Distinction, including a list of current and past honorees, visit districtadministration.com/dod.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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