AASA Superintendents of the Year Aim to Boost Student Achievement

Article excerpt

What should district leaders do improve student achievement? The four finalists for the 2007 National Superintendent of the Year award, recently selected by the American Association of School Administrators, are committed to that very goal, and each has implemented new strategies to boost student performance by focusing on a variety of areas.

SUSAN ANDREWS, superintendent of the Harris County School District (www.harris.k12.ga.us) in Hamilton, Ga., wanted to give special help to struggling high school students whose difficulties weren't tied to learning disabilities or behavioral problems.

Her district created an alternative high school for students who fail the ninth grade and perform at least at a sixth-grade level in math and language arts, most of whom do not enjoy school, have attendance problems and don't respond well to traditional instruction. To appeal to such students, the school utilizes nontraditional teaching strategies, such as computer-assisted, projects-based instruction. Classes are held only four days a week to accommodate students who have outside responsibilities.

"Parents are so grateful, because the children ... are excited to come to school," Andrews says.

BRENDA DIETRICH, superintendent of the Auburn-Washburn Unified School District (www.usd437.net) in Topeka, Kan., says her district saw a rise in test scores after it aligned its curriculum to state standards using the "bull's eye" model. This model helps prioritize curricula to emphasize the "mastery" curriculum, the vital state standards that "100 percent of students need to learn with 100 percent mastery," she says.

Based on that prioritizing, the district developed "early warning" assessments that are given twice before state exams. …