Leading a public school district is difficult and complicated work but done well, there is no other job where you can change how a community thinks about itself, its children, and its future. Following are 25 districts that are changing the trajectory by working on blended, personalized and competency-based learning. Most are making career preparation–including communications, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration–a priority. They are big and small, urban and rural, east and west–representative of the the American education challenge.
1., north of Charlotte, North Carolina, is a well known 1:1 district with an interesting configuration: three K-3 schools, two 4-6 schools, and a 7-8 middle and a high school. Superintendent Mark Edward says, “ ,” but his students sure make great use of their MacBooks. The innovation in Mooresville is the system-wide expectations, culture, curriculum, tools, and support. The district adopted in 3rd, 6th, 8th and 12th grade. It’s worth attending their summer conference. See Mark Edward’s book, . Other metro Charlotte districts of note include:
- , just across the state line in South Carolina, they are serious about engaging, “All students in meaningful and profound learning.” The district’s tech-enhanced instructional initiative is called . ( )
3. , west of Milwaukee is a small district working on blended, personalized and competency-based learning. The district has authorized four charter schools including three themed flex high schools ( ). (For more metro highlights, see .)
4. in New Hampshire is a leader in competency-based learning. The high school features flexible learning time to personalize instruction and provide students with support for intervention, extension, and enrichment ( ).
5. , east of Cleveland, is becoming a regional blended learning development site with (@EdElements). Mentor anchors the which won a state and is supported by .
6. (NW of NYC) is a RTTD grant winner where teachers and students focus on goal setting. from superintendent Dr. Kenneth W. Eastwood where he details partnerships with Education Elements, iReady, Dreambox, Achieve3000, Lexia and MyOn.
7. , north of San Jose, is making progress on using a lab rotational model and playing with ideas of mixed age grouping and other new models.
8. , in Michigan, serves about 30,000 students, has award winning high schools, an flex academy, a decent , a data partnership with , and is a member of Digital Promise’s .
9. is a high challenge suburb of Harrisburg. winning Lebanon High School, a member of the , implementing a station-rotation model school-wide (see ).
10. , Colorado Springs, has an interesting portfolio of schools in 4 feeder patterns. The iConnect Zone includes — an online school with a lot of drop in and scheduled supports and activities with a cool 21,000 square foot facility that looks like a “Google meets Starbucks” environment. It is , , and captured in . POWER Zone staff are dedicated to facilitating a mission focused on Purposeful risk, Ownership of learning, Whole child-student concept, Engaging inquiry and Respectful relationships (POWER). The Sand Creek zone is an IB feeder pattern.
11. is one of several San Diego County districts with unified executive leadership around next gen learning. They boosted math proficiency with district wide use of . (See .)
12. , north of Atlanta, gets high marks for identifying and supporting teacher tech leaders–the . The charter district has pushed down budget and planning responsibility to the school level rather than attempting a district wide move. (See , a feature on .)
13. has a competency based model designed around an innovative usage of their SIS system with strong Chromebook implementation starting in kindergarten. (See )
14. in rapidly growing northwest Phoenix is a technology leader and (like many AZ districts listed below) takes career preparation seriously. They have a good model for scaling professional learning around performance assessment.
High performing suburban districts with a strong commitment to college and career readiness include:
16. (south of Lexington) demonstrates that . Carmen Coleman (now at working with Gene Wilhoit, ) led community conversations that resulted in a Deeper Learning agenda. winning was profiled in . (Read to the Bate staff.)
17. in eastern Washington, is a STEM-focused rural district (e.g., all freshmen students are required to take introduction to biomedical classes in engineering). AVID and advisories help the district far out perform neighboring districts in grad rate and college going.
18. in California’s central valley, is a leader in competency-based (they call it performance-based) education — ”Students work at their performance level and advance through the curriculum when they have demonstrated proficiency of the required knowledge or skills.” Watch .
19. , between Birmingham and Atlanta, is 1:1 K-12 ( ) and a member of . NGLC winning was featured in .
Also recommended by colleagues for their commitment to professional learning:
- , Wyoming, narrowed the achievement gap for Hispanic students with a deep investment in embedded professional development.
- , between Portland and Salem, serves a high ELL population in five small high schools with strong graduation rates.
- is promoting Authentic Intellectual Work.
21. won the . Reviewers noted the use of data to drive minority achievement gains and a unique problem-solving strategy to help challenged schools improve their student performance. is a blended learning middle school math program. There are 8 and 340 choice programs in over 100 schools. For metro highlights, see .
22. may have the most aggressive improvement and innovation of any city with an elected board. Elected with the support of , the board has created partnerships with quality school networks including , , and .
23. , on the South Carolina coast, serves 42,000 students with a solid with a vision for . Some innovative secondary schools feature blended, STEM, and early college strategies. (See .)
24. (Las Vegas) serves over 300,000 students. With per pupil expenditures of $8K, Clark spends a lot less than the five larger districts in the country. Despite the challenges, they’ve made a big commitment to blended learning and have a well developed network of . (For more, see .)
25. has lots of schools and networks worth visiting despite less interest in an innovation agenda. (See )
We obviously missed hundreds of districts doing great work. We’d welcome your suggestions. Please comment to add!
This post is part of the Smart List series published in partnership with , provider of advocacy, advisory, consulting and public relations services to turn ideas into impact.
MIND Research Institute, The Learning Accelerator, Next Generation Learning Challenges, Curriculum Associates and DreamBox Learning are Getting Smart Advocacy Partners.