[Editor’s note: This story, originally published on January 5th of this year, was our #2 most popular story of the year. Happy holidays, and thank you for tuning into our 2018 countdown!]
From shifts in school choice to student assessments to online learning, the educational landscape is constantly evolving. This coming year, districts will continue to face many challenges and opportunities that will impact students, staff, and school systems as a whole.
Below, experts from various areas of the education industry share trends that will help shape K-12 education in 2018.
1. Strategic enrollment management
Jinal Jhaveri, Founder and CEO of SchoolMint
One of the more prominent shifts in preK-12 public education is the policies and attitudes around student enrollment in a landscape of growing school options. The era of students defaulting to one assigned neighborhood school is on the decline as parents are granted the empowerment and responsibility to choose a school for their child from multiple options. An increasing number of districts allow students to attend any public school that has space available, regardless of where they live.
As a result of this paradigm shift, communities around the country are demanding a more transparent, equitable, and accessible enrollment process for all families. The high stakes associated with the enrollment experience are rising and districts are responding by taking a more expansive, strategic approach to enrollment management, similar to what their higher education counterparts have done.
In the coming year and beyond, district leaders will offer parents a more holistic, inclusive experience for enrollment and school selection that extends way beyond student applications and registrations. They will augment their marketing and outreach efforts before the enrollment window even opens and they will simplify and transform their application and registration systems to improve the equity and access in school selection. They will also nurture and cultivate family relationships beyond the registration process to increase engagement and retention throughout the entire time a student is attending school in the district.
While moving to strategic enrollment management can be challenging, the stakes are too high for school systems to delay or ignore taking action.
2. Personalized professional development (PD) for teachers
Adam Geller, Founder and CEO of Edthena
Districts are increasingly being tasked with providing teachers with more individualized support while not being stretched too thin from a capacity or budgetary standpoint. This ongoing trend is causing districts to make more strategic decisions about their professional-development investments. Teachers who feel supported in their roles are more likely to stay teaching in the same location.
The right research-based strategies and technology–like observation and feedback using video–can help districts scale PD efforts. St. Vrain Valley (CO) School District, for example, began using peer coaching to address its teacher and substitute shortage. Instead of hiring substitutes to cover for teachers to attend PD sessions, the district’s teachers began using video to receive instructional coaching and support. Teachers record and upload portions of their lessons and then share it with the district’s mentor teachers, who act as peer coaches, to receive targeted feedback.
By implementing effective strategies and technology, districts can successfully meet today’s growing demand for higher quality PD despite other constraints they may face.
3. Assessing less to learn more
Kenneth Tam, Executive Director of Personalized Learning and Assessment at Curriculum Associates
School districts are increasingly realizing the need to streamline the amount of assessments given to students. Currently, the average student completes 112 mandatory standardized assessments between grades Pre-K to 12, which equates to 20 to 25 hours of standardized testing each year, according to a report from the Council of Great City Schools. This represents a significant amount of time that could be better dedicated to actual teaching and instruction.
While there are many state and local efforts to reduce testing time and assessments, conducting an assessment audit is one way districts can pro-actively and effectively streamline their assessments. Assessment audits are a multi-phase and multi-week process that helps districts rationalize the assessments administered to students.
In short, an assessment audit consists of districts forming a committee of administrators and school leaders who articulate the district’s vision of an ideal assessment system, conduct an inventory of the current assessments being used, group and analyze their findings, and devise and execute a plan for change management and sharing their recommendations for a new assessment system. The audits lead to consistent testing across schools and reduce duplicative assessments so that educators gain back valuable instructional time.
By administering fewer, more consistent assessments, teachers have more instructional time and higher quality data that they can use to deliver the quality, individualized instruction students need to succeed.
4. Seamless technology for classrooms
Jason Meyer, Sr. Product Manager, Projectors for Epson America, Inc.
Classroom tech is going to become more seamless. Instead of just adding technology into the classroom, schools will begin making it an integral part of the classroom’s ecosystem. This means the clunkiness of using and managing it will disappear.
For example, more hardware manufacturers are beginning to put more resources into creating device-agnostic wireless interactive and collaboration tools, especially as more schools implement 1:1 or BYOD programs for students and teachers. This will make it easier for teachers to manage what students are doing on their devices during class time and better facilitate class-wide collaboration. During discussions, students can refer to online resources and quickly share them with the class wirelessly to support their discussion points. And gone are the days of waiting minutes between presentations. Wireless collaboration software makes casting from a student’s personal device to the classroom display possible in seconds. Side-by-side and multi-screen projection will create new comparative learning opportunities for teachers.
Lastly, manufacturers are finding ways to make the maintenance and upkeep of hardware easier on districts with network monitoring features and virtually zero maintenance models.