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K-12 education was put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic--now, here's what it needs to evolve and best serve students and teachers

6 necessary steps to move K-12 education forward in 2021

K-12 education was put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic--now, here's what it needs to evolve and best serve students and teachers

Six key K-12 education trends, including teachers and parents becoming more open to new ways to teach and learn, and finding value in technology to stay connected, will be necessary to move education forward in the coming months.

According to new data on how the pandemic impacted K-12 education, student engagement became the leading metric of student success, with 92 percent of educators calling it the most important factor. The data from Instructure, the makers of Canvas, also underscores challenges in areas like equity, with low income households more than twice as likely to report difficulty in helping their children remain engaged.

“Our school communities persevered through incredibly challenging dynamics this past year, but overall we came through it more adaptive, open to new approaches and deeply focused on student engagement,” said Trenton Goble, VP of K-12 Strategy at Instructure. “At the same time, there is a lot of hard work ahead. About half of educators and parents feel students have significantly fallen behind due to COVID-19. We know technology will remain pivotal, as the pandemic shifted its role from a nice-to-have to an essential service that connects teachers, parents and students with the entire learning journey.”

The research revealed six key trends that parents and educators across the country feel are important to teaching and learning in K-12 education.

1. Investing in teachers = investing in student success.
High-quality teaching continues to be recognized as the leading factor contributing to student success, and investing in immersive professional development is critical to supporting teacher preparedness, building and deepening skill sets, and promoting teacher efficacy.

  • 85% of parents ranked it as the most important factor.
  • When looking at social-emotional factors, both educators (99%) and parents (91%) rated “the student’s relationship with teachers” as the top factor.
  • Professional development for teachers received the most funding in the switch to remote learning, and is expected to remain the top two priorities for future funding.

2. The #1 priority for teachers is student engagement.
Using technology to provide personalized learning plans, measure student engagement, and recreate core classroom experiences when students are absent will help teachers capitalize on the investments they made last year, and address individual learning needs.

  • Educators believe student engagement (92%) and attendance (85%) are the most important metrics of student success and are expected to grow more important over the next year (73% and 67%, respectively).
  • Just one in three parents (33%) says that maintaining engagement has been difficult during the pandemic.
  • However, low income households were more than twice as likely to report difficulty helping their children remain engaged.

3. It’s time for a fundamental shift in assessment.
While students continue to feel pressure around high-stakes tests, such as semester-end or year-end assessments, the perceived value of those tests has decreased dramatically. Keeping every student on track to reach grade-level standards will require an actionable approach to assessment that’s part of the regular instructional cycle.

  • In terms of measuring student success, respondents perceive standardized test scores as the least important among fourteen factors, at only 29%.
  • To check students’ understanding during the pandemic, 76% of educators delivered formative assessments during remote learning.
  • About half of educators and parents feel that students have significantly fallen behind due to COVID-19 school closures.
  • Nearly 30% of educators report the receipt of assessment data is either somewhat or much later than needed.

4. Hybrid teaching and learning is here to stay.
Ongoing technology use will be essential to supporting classroom activities and ensuring students stay engaged and parents stay informed, both in and outside the classroom.

  • 81% of educators believe that technology will become increasingly important in teaching and learning moving forward.
  • 67% believe that remote learning will impact classroom practices in the future
  • Although majorities of both groups report a positive shift in opinion and preference, parents are significantly more likely to report an increased preference for online learning at 74%, as well as a more positive opinion of online learning at 64% (compared to educators who reported 55% to both questions).

5. Equitable access is critical to achieving equity in education.
Funding for hardware acquisition remains a top priority for districts, as access to technology devices and internet connection continues to play a role in teacher preparedness and student engagement.

  • Hardware acquisition received the most funding in the switch to remote learning and is expected to remain a top priority for future funding.
  • 39% report that insufficient equipment or lack of access to devices is a top challenge or concern with technology solutions, only following lack of in-person interaction (55% for parents, 65% for educators).
  • Respondents from high income households were twice as likely to report full satisfaction (52%) compared to low income (28%).

6. Technology is essential in keeping teachers, students, and parents connected.
Though the abrupt transition to online learning presented many challenges, the adopted tools kept everyone on the same page, and their continued use can positively impact engagement and communication.

  • Both educators (78%) and parents (79%) agree that student communication is the aspect of the learning experience where tech is most important.
  • Both groups view tech’s next leading benefits to be around improving academic outcomes, including core course performance (75%) and student academic achievement (63%).
  • Additionally, parent communication ranks high in importance with both educators (78%) and parents (75%).

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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