school leaders

Half of school leaders expect significant impact from ESSA

New survey reveals how school leaders feel about policy, tech-supported learning

Catapult Learning, Inc. released the results of its Annual Education Leadership Survey. The overall results of the inaugural survey reflect school leaders’ focus on meeting individual student needs and building teacher and leadership capacity within schools.

Catapult Learning, a provider of K–12 contracted instructional services in the U.S., developed the survey with the goal of better understanding school and district’s instructional and professional development needs. The survey’s 266 respondents represented more than 40 states and included over 100 superintendents, as well as assistant superintendents, district department heads, and school building leaders.

Survey questions ranged across the education spectrum and included the impact of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), technology-supported learning, increasing graduation rates, and serving special needs students.

The release of the survey, soon after the passing of ESSA, provided the opportunity to gather feedback from school leaders about the law’s impact on their schools and districts. While the law is not scheduled to go in effect until the 2017−18 school year, 54 percent of respondents expect ESSA to significantly affect systems in the 2016−17 school year, while 17 percent responded that they expect ESSA to never substantially impact their school systems.

The survey asked school leaders to rank on a scale of 1-5 their largest challenges when it comes to equitably implementing best practices in technology-supported learning. Training staff emerged as the biggest challenge, with procuring and maintaining hardware a close second. Other challenges include providing reliable internet access in every building, selecting software, and managing building logistics.

Two challenges emerged as topmost in school leaders’ minds when it comes to serving students with special needs: complying with policies that don’t align with students’ needs, and hiring and training staff efficiently. Other challenges including identifying effective program models, implementing e-learning solutions, and providing transportation.

Regarding how to increase graduation rates, responding school leaders ranked intervention based on early identification of at-risk middle school students as the most effective path, followed by credit recovery, alternate pathways, wraparound services, and partnering with other agencies.

A final open-ended question, which the majority of participating school leaders (68 percent) responded to, asked, “What is the most important thing you have learned in the past year that has contributed to the success of your school system?” The most common theme was related to meeting students’ needs (13 percent), followed by leadership (11 percent).

Jeffrey Cohen, Catapult Learning’s CEO, cited the survey results as both timely and significant in their findings. “As a company, our focus and priority is the students we serve and the academic outcomes that result from our services. This focus is very much aligned with that of our survey respondents and understanding this will enable us to strengthen our school and district partnerships and best serve our students.”

Catapult Learning’s Leadership Survey will be conducted annually, providing the opportunity to identify and compare educational leaders’ focus year-over-year, as the passing of ESSA marks the beginning of a new era of education policy.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione

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