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20 School Districts to Watch in 2020

AvatarJohn Smith

2020 is shaping up to be an exciting year for education. With a new year (and decade!) upon us, we wanted to share 20 districts to watch in 2020. These are districts who are blazing the trail in transforming teaching and learning, embracing diversity or making outstanding contributions to their communities. We are spotlighting districts with tremendous academic achievement as well as those that are working to close the achievement gap because we believe that excellent school districts come in all shapes and sizes!

  1. Orange County Public Schools (Florida)
    Serving over 215,000 students, Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) in Florida is the eighth largest school district in the nation and one of the largest employers in Central Florida. We love their inspiring mission: “to lead students to success with the support of involvement of families and the community.” The district recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. Head over to Twitter and follow #OCPS150 to explore some of the amazing memories and milestones OCPS holds for families.
  2. Montgomery Public Schools (Alabama)
    Montgomery Public Schools is a mid-sized Alabama school district with an outstanding commitment to community and serving diverse student needs. The district offers a broad curriculum and even has several career academies to equip high school students for life after graduation. The district is home to four Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence and one of the most renowned magnet high schools. In the last year, the district has rewritten its strategic plan and put a number of new procedures into place that have improved outcomes for students. MPS has begun embracing technology to close achievement gaps and we can’t wait to see what 2020 holds for the district!
  3. Gwinnett County Public Schools (Georgia)
    Awards are the name of the game at Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia. The district’s Laura Ross was just named American School Counselor Association’s 2020 School Counselor of the Year. Gwinnett educators have earned national recognition for innovative teaching in mathematics, music education, entrepreneurship, computer science, career and technical education and more. Check out the district’s impressive awards list here. We can’t wait to see what awards GCPS snags this year.
  4. Fayette County Public Schools (Georgia)

    *Image Source: @fcboe Twitter

    Fayette County Public Schools is another Georgia-based school district with just over 20,000 students. The district is doing great things in two critical, yet disparate areas: mental health and computer science. The district recently hosted a presentation for families that explores warning signs of mental illness and practical tips for parents to talk with their children about these tough topics. On the computer science front, the district recently participated in “Hour of Code,” a one-hour introduction to computer science that is held nationwide. Kudos FCPS!

  5. Cobb County School District (Georgia)
    *Image Source: @CobbinTech Twitter

    Cobb County School District is another Georgia district that is setting the gold standard for technology use in the classroom. The district has a 28-member team of technology training and integration specialists that work with teachers on how to incorporate digital tools into their lesson plans. This includes everything from using classroom assessment data to personalize instruction to teaching kindergarten teachers how to teach PowerPoint to their young students. The district is known for setting technology best practices and its incredible resources are used by educators across the world.

  6. Jefferson County Schools (Alabama)
    Jefferson County Schools is Alabama’s second-largest district, serving over 36,000 students. The district is currently working on several major capital projects, which we think make it a district to watch this year. The projects include six new schools, seven renovations, two athletic packages and two preliminary projects, which are all geared to support the district’s goal of preparing students for the future. Be sure to follow the journey here.
  7. Dayton Public Schools (Ohio)
    The list of accolades at Dayton Public Schools—an urban Ohio district with more than 12,000 students—is pretty impressive. The district boasts 1:1 technology with Chromebooks available to all students and is home to one of the world’s 44 Challenger Learning Centers, “where students get hands-on experience with science and math and learn about space travel and exploration.” Since 2010, the DPS graduation rate has increased by 10 percentage points. The district recently approved a new five-year financial forecast, which included a 14% increase in spending so that the district can focus on a number of projects. We can’t wait to see what DPS does in 2020!
  8. Lindsay Unified School District (California)
    Lindsay Unified School District is a small California school district doing big things in competency-based learning. Nearly half of the district’s 4,100 are new to English and about 80% live in or near poverty. The district’s mission is centered around empowering and motivating learners and it takes a strategic personalized learning approach that has garnered national attention. You can learn more about Lindsay’s inspirational story here.
  9. Princeton City Schools (Ohio)
    Princeton City Schools in Ohio is a member of the League of Innovative Schools, a coalition of 114 forward-thinking school districts. The district has several digital accomplishments under its belt including creating a mobile resource center and adding STEM education to all middle schools. The district even hosts quarterly community breakfasts for businesses and community partners to connect and collaborate. The district’s high school students play an integral role in these breakfasts through public speaking and networking.
  10. Portland Public Schools (Oregon)
    Portland Public Schools is another League of Innovation School that has achieved a 100% accessibility rate, meaning that 100% of its students have access to high speed broadband. The district joined the Spring1Million project, which identifies high school students who don’t have access to internet outside of the school. The district has also made amazing achievements in elementary reading outcomes and developing culturally relevant curriculum. We think the best is yet to come for Portland Public Schools!
  11. Eanes ISD (Texas)

    *Image Source: @EanesISD Twitter

    Eanes ISD is a Texas school district with just over 8,000 students. All of the district’s nine schools achieved the highest rating of “Met Standard” by the Texas Education Agency. The district is a 1:1 mobile device district and takes pride in meeting the unique needs of all of its students through comprehensive curriculum. It even hosts a “Festival de Eanes,” student film festival each year—talk about fostering creativity!

  12. Vail School District (Arizona)
    Vail School District, located just southeast of Tucson, AZ, is one of the state’s top performing school districts and is “widely recognized as a lighthouse district leading in effective instruction and innovation,” Perhaps most interestingly, the district has a unique mission to serve parents. According to the district’s website, “the District recognizes the reality that children belong to their parents…It is central to the collaborative relationship that now exists with parents and staff.” We think this mission and approach is revolutionary and makes Vail a district to watch in 2020!
  13. Madison County Schools (Mississippi)
    Madison County School District is one of Mississippi’s fastest-growing, top-rated school districts. Even more impressively, it is one of the highest scoring county districts to achieve an “A” rating based on the statewide accountability model. In the 2014-2015 school year, the district began its 1:M Digital Initiative, which “enhances student learning by creating a personalized, student-centered learning environment in which every student in grades 9-12 receives a Macbook.”
  14. Williamson County Schools (Tennessee)
    Image Source: https://www.youtube.com/wcsedu

    With over 41,000 students and 48 schools, Williamson County Schools is a large school district located in Tennessee. WCS is known for its high achievement and impressive average ACT score, but what we really love is its use of social media, particularly YouTube. The district’s YouTube channel has hundreds of videos covering everything from special school events to safety tips for parents. The district has clearly made video a priority and posts several new videos per week. We definitely suggest subscribing in 2020!

  15. Center Grove Community School Corp (Indiana)
    Center Grove Community School Corp is an Indiana school district with just over 8,000 students. The district has 1:1 technology for all grade levels and has turned their vision for “all students to receive an exceptional education experience” into a hashtag: #E3CG! CG is putting the clever hashtag to good use on its Twitter page where the district blazes the trail of social engagement and community building. The district’s 9 schools’ Twitter accounts even leverage the district hashtag. Indeed, #E3CG is definitely one to follow in 2020!
  16. Atlanta Public Schools (Georgia)
    Atlanta Public Schools serves the city’s 52,000 students and has an inspiring mission “to ensure that with a caring culture of trust and collaboration, every student will graduate ready for college and career.” To bring this mission to life, APS has a number of innovative initiatives and programs, such as a newly renovated Atlanta College and Career Academy, an annual “Technology and Innovation Competition,” and a new “Vision of Excellence” program that ensures all students have access to an excellent school.
  17. East Syracuse Minoa Central School District (New York)
    Located in New York, East Syracuse Minoa Central School District is a smaller school district with just seven schools. The district has several noteworthy accolades but what we think is most impressive are the four districtwide plans and the intentionality behind them. The one we want to highlight and what we think makes ESM stand out is the “District Plan for Students with Disabilities,” which is a programmatic depiction of the special education continuum of services that have been developed and continue to be assessed yearly based on….the needs of current special education students.” ESM is a national leader in special education and definitely makes it a district to watch in 2020.
  18. Horry County Schools (South Carolina)
    Horry County Schools is located on the South Carolina coast and serves about 42,000 students. The district gets high marks for its personalized learning approach, centered around its use of technology in the classroom. The district is also home to some innovative secondary schools with unique strategies that combine blended learning, STEM and early college prep, which work together to accomplish the district’s goal of ensuring all students are college and career ready.
  19. Akron Public Schools (Ohio)

    *Image Source: https://www.akronschools.com

    Serving about 22,000 students, Akron Public Schools is located in the northeastern part of Ohio. The district calls its schools ‘community learning centers’ because they are co-owned by the city and serve the entire community with a wealth of activities after the school day is over. APS is also consistently ranked as a top district for music education and was named a 2019 Best Community for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation, an award that recognizes outstanding efforts by teachers, administrators, parents, students and community leaders who have made music education part of a well-rounded education.

  1. Union County Public Schools (North Carolina)

    *Image Source: @UCPS_MonroeNC Twitter

    Union County Public Schools serves approximately 41,500 students in North Carolina and has an outstanding record of achievement, growth and graduation rates. What sticks out to us the most, though, is the sense of community within UCPS. A visit to the district’s website makes it obvious that UCPS prioritizes community involvement. The hashtag #UCPSGivesBack showcases the district’s many efforts to give back to the community, which include holiday parties for deserving students, donation drives for those in need and a club that focuses on acts of kindness.

Kudos to these incredible 20 school districts who are paving the way in so many different areas! We look forward to following their stories in 2020 and hope you will too. Let us know which district you’re keeping an eye on this year!

 

 

 

 

 

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About the author: John Smith

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