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By GreatSchools Staff
Talk about going beyond the call of duty: The top dogs of our top school districts often approach their work with unflagging intensity and creativity. Heath Burns, the recent superintendent of Angleton, Texas, devoted himself to helping the kids others give up on. He peppered his newsletter with impassioned pleas for parents to immerse their children in love and literacy.
“The most valuable gift you can give your babies (whatever their ages) is to love them fully and unconditionally ... Squeeze Em’, Kiss Em’, Play with Em’, Love Em’,” writes Burns, who encourages parents to “start reading with your babies early and don’t stop reading to them until they won’t fit in your lap.”
Superintendent John Williamson of Fort Thomas, Ky., challenged the mayor to a Biggest Loser-style weight-loss competition, then went on to reform the district’s lunch program and add exercise science to the curriculum. In Mason, Ohio, everyone from the superintendent to the principals teaches a class to keep in touch with the district’s educational values and vision. (They also do wacky things to stay in touch with the students, like hold a principal tricycle race.)
Want a superior education? Follow the money. (Or simply go to affluent Massachusetts, home to 11 of the 90 best school districts.) Well-heeled, well-educated communities like Weston, Mass., and Potomac, Md., have districts with high test scores, college-bound student bodies, state of-the-art facilities, and enrichment opportunities. It’s no surprise that it costs a pretty penny to live in these communities, but it’s hardly doable for most of America, where the median home price is $178,000.
The good news is that a lack of affluence doesn’t translate to low-performing schools. In Bristol, Tenn., your child can attend a top-rated public school, and you can get a home for $85,850. Not too shabby.
How do such relatively modest cities succeed where others fail? They use their money very carefully, says Deputy Superintendent Linda Lane of Pittsburgh: “There’s been considerable effort here to make sure we efficiently use taxpayer resources.”
Fishers, Ind., spends its limited dollars in a few key areas, especially early-intervention programs that “catch [kids] while they’re young,” says Superintendent Brian Smith. It also pours funds into high school classes like aerodynamics and financial services to prepare graduates for 21st-century challenges.
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