Jul 09 2013

The Power and Responsibility of Decision-Makers in Education

Educators do far more than teach our children. The choices they make every day affect all aspects of students’ learning experiences.

No school operates in a vacuum. Every day, administrators, teachers, IT managers and ­support staff make choices, big and small, that impact students’ educational experiences. Such decisions are driven not only by their professional expertise (and that of their colleagues), but also by their instincts.

In the harrowing moments just before an EF5 tornado touched down in Moore, Okla., on May 20, causing significant ­destruction at Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore and Briarwood Elementary in south Oklahoma City, teachers and staff made choices that minimized ­students’ trauma and ultimately saved lives. Sadly, the Plaza Towers community lost seven students, and the citizens of Moore and its surrounding areas face years of rebuilding.

What the Oklahoma tornado, last December’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and other natural and man-made tragedies make all too clear is that educators do far more than teach our children. They are surrogate parents and guardians ­during the school day — and often, on evenings and weekends, too — shielding students from harm, mentoring them and inspiring them to be more than they think they can be.

This issue is full of examples of school and district leaders around the country making carefully ­considered choices to keep students safe, help them become better people and ­citizens, and ensure that they graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to be successful in college and the workforce.

When Rescue Union School District officials discovered during a 2011 safety assessment that some areas of their school campuses in central California couldn’t be reached with the current ­paging system, they began working to develop a new communications system.

“We didn’t want to shortchange ­ourselves,” Director of Media and Technology Sheila Simmons says of the time spent looking for a solution that was on the leading edge, would last for decades, and would be easy for the IT department to manage and for teachers and staff to operate. “We wanted to do it right the first time.” To learn which technologies they chose — and why — read “After Newtown, Schools Enhance Security and Disaster Preparedness."

Other decisions aren’t necessarily a matter of life or death, but they’re just as essential to students’ long-term success.

Districts considering a transition from a print to digital curriculum, for ­example, can learn from the experiences of those who’ve done it in “How to Transition from a Print to Digital Curriculum." For insights into the factors that drive districts toward one ­device over ­another when implementing one-to-one computing programs, check out “How Do Districts Decide Which One-to-One Device to Deploy?

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