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K-12 administrators juggle challenges related to staff retention, student well-being, and cybersecurity readiness.

3 top priorities for K-12 administrators

K-12 administrators juggle challenges related to staff retention, student well-being, and cybersecurity readiness

Key points:

As K-12 administrators strive to improve operations and maximize outcomes, they are increasingly focused on growing human capital, supporting students holistically, and protecting essential district resources, according to a new survey from Frontline Education.

The report, K-12 Lens: A Survey Report from Frontline Education, is based on responses from nearly 700 K-12 administrators nationwide and is tailored to help district leaders thoughtfully plan initiatives that drive meaningful improvements for their staff and students.

Developed in partnership with C+C Research, the comprehensive report establishes benchmarks that will be tracked annually to monitor trends over time. In doing so, it aims to assist district leaders in aligning their strategies to recent research. In addition to key data findings, the report provides practical strategies to guide district leaders’ decision-making and improve staffing, student support, and budgeting operations.

The report presents key data and insights related to each critical priority.

Growing human capital

Sixty-seven percent of K-12 administrators say they’ve experienced increased staffing difficulty over the past year, with 41 percent reporting a staff retention rate between 81 and 90 percent. A large majority (96 percent) believe professional development will lead to greater engagement and retention.

According to survey respondents, the shortage impact also differs by content area. While more than three-quarters of respondents indicated that they are in need of special educators and substitute teachers, less than one-quarter indicated that they lack speech therapists.

Almost all respondents indicated that they are prioritizing the following shifts in professional learning because they believe it will lead to greater engagement and retention:

  • 99 percent: Increased transfer of new learning to classroom practice
  • 98 percent: More teacher buy-in to professional learning agendas
  • 97 percent: Greater connection between professional learning and teacher goals
  • 96 percent: Increased alignment between teacher evaluation results and professional learning activities

Supporting students holistically

Student mental health is a top priority for K-12 administrators, emphasizing the importance of focusing on students’ mental and emotional well-being to enhance academic outcomes.

They pointed to factors related to students’ home or community environments that can affect their mental and emotional well-being. These include the quality of the relationships between their caregivers and their schools, financial security, and lifestyle factors that can interrupt learning, like student mobility.

Many respondents highlighted the connection between students’ mental and social-emotional health and their attendance, behavior, and academic performance. They also mentioned the need for better identification of students who require intervention. Fifty-two percent track early warning indicators of risk for grades 1-5 to monitor variables like attendance, behavior, and grades. About half of surveyed K-12 administrators know for sure which students are receiving intervention based on these early warning indicators, and one-third know the percentage of chronically absent students in their districts.

While districts are providing various special services, there are still opportunities for improvement. These include:

  • Understanding the factors that impact students’ mental wellness and the outcomes of mental health challenges
  • Aiding overburdened district mental health providers with important supports, such as a software tool to document students’ mental health needs and a schedule for mental health screenings
  • Using student attendance, behavior, and grades data to identify at-risk students at every grade level

Protecting essential district resources

About one-fourth of K-12 administrators say they lack confidence in budgeting for future district technology needs, and 45 percent saw decreased funding due to legislative changes. Their top tech challenge is boosting cybersecurity.

District resources, especially technology assets, have become integral to teaching and learning. The report highlights various opportunities for improving financial operations at the district level. These include:

  • Anticipating legislative impacts on district spending
  • Using a software system to assist with budget forecasting and strategy
  • Planning ahead for significant technology expenditures related to repairing and replacing new devices
  • Working with IT to develop a cybersecurity plan
  • Knowing the costs and planning ahead for a cyberattack

“This report is not just a snapshot; it’s a roadmap for informed decision-making, providing actionable data and strategies tailored to empower school leaders in addressing both current realities and emerging trends. We plan to release similar reports annually, ensuring that the K-12 community has access to the latest insights and resources to drive positive change in their schools and communities,” said Mark Gruzin, CEO of Frontline Education.

This press release originally appeared online.

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