Beyond Academics: Giving Students a Chance to Succeed

By Lawrence Hardy

Teach the students, not the curriculum. That’s a maxim that great teachers—and great schools and school districts—live by. 

It means that, no matter how enriching the curriculum, if the material is not getting through to the students -- if it is not meeting them where they are -- the whole educational enterprise has failed.

Education is always a challenge, but if most of your students are middle class and college-bound, meeting them where they are may not be so difficult. Their parents have, for the most part, ensured that they are at least positioned for success.

The same is not true if your students are disadvantaged, if their parents are undereducated themselves, or if they come from minority communities that have historically faced discrimination or communities where jobs are scarce and the risk of dropping out is high. In these cases, dynamic school districts must go the extra mile to ensure that their students have a chance to succeed.

This month, we take a look at four districts that have worked tirelessly on behalf of disadvantaged students -- and, indeed, all students. All of the districts won Magna Awards this year from the editors of ASBJ and Sodexo. For more examples of outstanding programs, go to

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