School & District Management

School Districts Showcase What’s Working to Improve Student Learning

By Libby Stanford — June 28, 2022 3 min read
David Schuler, superintendent of High School District 214 near Chicago, Ill., speaks about college and career readiness during a presentation at AASA's first annual Learning 2025 Summit on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, in Washington, D.C. High School District 214 is one of 13 "lighthouse" districts that were recognized for innovative work to improve school systems.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

When David Schuler was in his first year of teaching, he noticed that six students in his third-period U.S. History class were failing. Schuler went to his principal to share concerns about those students.

“David, in every garden, there’s a couple of weeds,” his principal said.

“We would never say that now, thankfully,” Schuler told members of AASA, the School Superintendents Association Tuesday. Now a superintendent himself, Schuler said school leaders should encourage their teachers to be “allies for their students’ success.”

His comments came at AASA’s Learning 2025 National Summit, where Schuler’s High School District 214 near Chicago was one of 13 districts recognized by AASA, for their commitment to improving school systems.

AASA partnered on the program with Successful Practices Network, an organization that works with school districts and educators to curb dropout rates and provide career and technical education resources. The program aims to encourage districts to push each other to enact positive change.

“Everybody writes white papers about how education should change and how we should redesign the system to do things differently and nothing happens,” AASA Executive Director Dan Domenech said. “There are examples of districts that are already implementing these very innovative practices.”

The Learning 2025 Network is a group of over 120 school systems nationwide that work together in hopes of improving student outcomes and driving education policy. AASA considers the 13 “lighthouse” districts to be “exemplary educational systems” that stand out among the rest of the network for their work to transform school culture; improve student social, emotional, and cognitive growth; and provide resources for educators, according to a news release.

“[The recognition] is an affirmation of all the great work all of our teachers and staff are doing,” said Randall Squier, superintendent of Coxsackie-Athens Central School District in upstate New York. “We have been doing this work, and now it’s just saying, ‘This is the right work to be doing for kids to get them ready for their future.’”

Redefining college and career readiness

Squier, Schuler, and superintendents from the other 11 districts shared their strategies for improving student outcomes during the summit.

In the past few years, Squier and his team have worked to have his district of 1,180 students offer the same opportunities as a larger, metropolitan district. They’ve done this by providing staff incentives for professional development, implementing research projects for every student at every grade level, and having students participate in workplace internships and programs.

All of those strategies taken together ultimately help Coxsackie-Athens’ students complete “commencement level indicators,” a set of educational and social markers that indicate they’re ready for college, career, and life overall.

The indicators include typical academic markers like achieving a GPA of B- or higher or taking the SAT exam, but they also involve life skills. Students can earn recognition for registering to vote, taking a personal finance course, or participating in career exploration classes.

“If our kids can demonstrate some of these—not all of them, but some of these—we can feel confident that when they graduate … they’re ready,” Squier said, adding that the district gives green, yellow, and blue tassels to students who meet the requirements.

Schuler has taken a similar approach at High School District 214. Students are required to identify a career area of interest. Those students then build their schedules based on that area of interest.

After making that requirement, the superintendent and his team went through the process of eliminating classes that didn’t align with a career pathway. The idea was to give students something valuable they can take from every course in high school.

“We want to redesign instruction, re-engineer what happens in the classroom, and ensure that kids have a voice in their journey,” Schuler said. “They’ll be much more successful if they’re co-authors of that journey.”

The AASA summit is also the first chance many superintendents have had to network in person since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. It’s an exciting time for school leaders to be able to share ideas to improve student outcomes and school systems overall, Squier said.

“If you can leave any conference with at least one ‘aha’ moment then it’s probably worth it,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Start Strong With Solid SEL Implementation: Success Strategies for the New School Year
Join Satchel Pulse to learn why implementing a solid SEL program at the beginning of the year will deliver maximum impact to your students.
Content provided by Satchel Pulse
Teaching Live Online Discussion Seat at the Table: How Can We Help Students Feel Connected to School?
Get strategies for your struggles with student engagement. Bring questions for our expert panel. Help students recover the joy of learning.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Science Webinar
Real-World Problem Solving: How Invention Education Drives Student Learning
Hear from student inventors and K-12 teachers about how invention education enhances learning, opens minds, and preps students for the future.
Content provided by The Lemelson Foundation

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Schools Prefer Cheaper Ventilation Options to Curb COVID: Why They Should Consider Upgrading
Most schools are opening windows and hosting class outdoors rather than investing in costlier, more-effective measures.
2 min read
Students from PS 11 Elementary School participate in art projects and interactive activities, during an after-school outdoor program held in the High Line park in New York, NY, October 21, 2020.
Students from PS 11 Elementary School participate in art projects and interactive activities during an after-school outdoor program in New York City in 2020. Many schools are opting for outdoor classes and other-low cost measures to maintain healthy air quality during the pandemic.
Anthony Behar/Sipa via AP Images
School & District Management Interactive Hour by Busy Hour: What a Principal's Day Actually Looks Like
From the time they wake up until they set the alarm at night, school leaders juggle the routine, the unexpected, and the downright bizarre.
Left, Principal Michael C. Brown talks on a radio at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., on May 17, 2022. Right, Boone Elementary School principal Manuela Haberer directs students and parents in the pick-up line at the conclusion of the school day on May 19, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
Left, Principal Michael C. Brown talks on a radio at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., on May 17, 2022. Right, Boone Elementary School principal Manuela Haberer directs students and parents in the pick-up line at the conclusion of the school day on May 19, 2022 in San Antonio, Texas.
From left, Steve Ruark and Lisa Krantz for Education Week
School & District Management Photos What School Leadership Looks Like: A Day in the Life of a Principal
A look at a typical day for one elementary school principal in Texas and a high school principal in Maryland.
1 min read
Principal Michael C. Brown, from left, talks to seniors Brady D’Anthony, 18, and Sydney Dryden, 17, at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Principal Michael C. Brown, from left, talks to seniors Brady D’Anthony, 18, and Sydney Dryden, 17, at Winters Mill High School in Westminster, Md., Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Steve Ruark for Education Week
School & District Management Schools Can Access Tons of Money for Electric Buses. Will They Use It?
Electric buses are growing more appealing as fuel prices rise, but some districts remain wary of the cost and logistics.
5 min read
Stockton Unified School District's new electric bus fleet reduces over 120,000 pounds of carbon emissions and leverages The Mobility House's smart charging and energy management system.
The new electric bus fleet at California's Stockton Unified School District is projected to reduce the district's carbon emissions.
Business Wire via AP