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#2: 10 education trends for 2018

Education experts forecast their predictions this coming year

[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.

5. Fighting chronic absenteeism with student support initiatives
Tom Strasburger, Vice President, Strategic Alliances for PublicSchoolWORKS

In 2017, the media increasingly highlighted chronic absenteeism in the nation’s schools. When students skip school – whether it is because they are being bullied, they do not feel safe at school, or there are factors at home that prevent them from going to school – it creates a serious negative impact.

In addition to the obvious effect absenteeism has on a student’s academic success, it also impacts their social and emotional well-being. Many students receive services at school they could not receive otherwise, including free-and-reduced breakfast and lunch, counseling and other wraparound services, and more. Missing out on these services can have serious long-term effects for the student. Additionally, chronic absenteeism also affects a district’s funding.

Schools get federal and state funds based on daily attendance, so if students are chronically absent, schools end up taking a hit in funding. For example, Los Angeles Unified School District’s attendance task force found that if each of its students attended one more day of school last year, the district would have received an additional $30 million in funding. This is a significant amount of money, but it is simply because of the district’s size and is based on other data. However, the impact is scalable to any size district.

Because of the detrimental side effects of absenteeism, schools and districts are beginning to recognize the importance of implementing intervention programs. These initiatives include bullying reporting and prevention programs; additional training to help educators and administrators identify and intervene on non-academic barriers to success, including homelessness, childhood abuse, mental health concerns, and teen dating violence; and the creation of additional student support groups.

6. Recertified equipment to help schools go 1:1
Glenn Collins, Vice President of Mobile Computing at CDI Computer Dealers

As more school districts adopt 1:1 initiatives, we see a rise in the number of districts choosing to purchase refurbished technology. This enables them to substantially reduce their cost per device and get to a 1:1 ratio faster. When purchased from a vendor with a rigorous recertification process, customers find that the refurbished devices perform just as well as new devices and have a lower failure rate.

By implementing 1:1 programs, schools are able to change the way they engage students in the learning process and drastically improve learning outcomes. Once implemented, teachers can easily deploy blended learning techniques or a flipped classroom model and can take advantage of the vast amount of quality online curricula that is now available. The cost of purchasing new technology can be daunting and can be a potential roadblock depending on a district’s budget. For many school districts, choosing refurbished technology has help helped to remove this roadblock and allow them to get to 1:1 faster.

7. Using cloud-based technology for faster access to high stakes assessment data
Brian Apperson, VP of Higher Education at Apperson Inc.

Schools will increasingly use cloud-based technology for high-stakes assessments in 2018. Gone are the days when pencil-and-paper tests were the only option for high-stakes tests and results took months to reach educators. The edtech industry has expanded to provide rich tools that allow schools to create and administer tests online, and then collect and analyze that data quickly and easily. The key to this is cloud-based technology.

Cloud-based assessment platforms integrate easily with SISs and LMSs, making them user-friendly. Housing data in the cloud also makes that data immediately accessible to those who need it. Keeping data in the cloud is actually safer and meets FERPA compliance better than using email to share data reports. Hybrid solutions are also available to help schools that are still transitioning from paper-based tests.

We live in a world that is increasingly gravitating toward online, cloud-based solutions for every aspect of life. Education is no different; that’s why we believe the move to cloud-based assessment platforms will be one of the big trends for 2018.

8. Taking a more proactive role in detecting and deterring cyberbullying
Richard Fuller, CEO of Impero Software

School districts will increasingly turn to technology in 2018 to detect and combat cyberbullying and other concerning behavior among students. A staggering 42 percent of U.S. students report that they have been bullied online, according to Because students today have greater access to technology in school, this behavior often occurs during the school day.

Luckily, technology exists to help schools monitor how students are using their school devices. Schools can install software that will alert a teacher or administrator of potential concerning situations, such as students bullying others on social media, exploring websites that encourage radicalization or violence, or searching for ways to commit suicide. Technology provides both amazing learning opportunities for students and new opportunities for dangerous or reckless behavior. As schools move to 1:1, they are taking a more proactive approach to stopping inappropriate student behavior.

9. Online schools will become more popular
Aviva Ebner, Ph.D., Principal at Uplift California South Charter, an online workforce readiness school

In 2018, we will see more high school students turning to online schools to earn their diplomas and obtain workforce training. Gone are the days of the traditional student. Students need a personalized approach to learning, and they need classes that fit their schedules and specific needs.

I believe online schooling will continue to grow in popularity because it offers this type of individualized approach. Students can take classes that fit their own flexible schedule, plus have access to course options ranging from college prep to credit recovery to career readiness.

Another reason online schooling will continue to be a trend in 2018 is because there is a swiftly growing need for a skilled workforce in high-demand fields.

Online schools, especially those with a workforce-development component, provide students with the specific classes and certification preparation these careers require. Students who might otherwise become dropouts at their brick-and-mortar schools now have an alternative for pursuing a diploma that not only touts completion of the high school curriculum, but also leads to a career.

Additionally, workforce-oriented online schools may also partner with their communities to offer job shadowing, internships, certification exam preparation, and other career resources to students, making this an increasingly popular option for students who want to enter the job market directly after high school.

10. Social and emotional learning will be an integral part of the school day
Paul LeBuffe, Vice President of Research and Development for Aperture Education

In 2018 we will see more schools adopting social and emotional learning (SEL) programs to help students learn the skills they need to succeed in life, such as personal responsibility, self-management, building relationships, and healthy decision-making.

In order for SEL to become an integral part of the school day, schools need both an effective curriculum that addresses the “whole child” and an assessment to identify a student’s social and emotional strengths as well as the skills that have not yet been acquired. This information can then guide instruction, resulting in more personalized and effective SEL programs.

In addition, schools will need good assessment data to show growth in social-emotional skills in order to document the effectiveness of their SEL programs and initiatives. The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) opened the door for the use of non-academic measures of school effectiveness in local and state accountability systems. This catalyzed the discussion about–and the adoption of–SEL assessments as one of those measures.

Strengths-based SEL assessments can truly inform the work that schools are doing around SEL. As we look to teach students learn skills that will help them to be good citizens, SEL will become an integral part of the teaching and learning process.

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Laura Ascione

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