As a new calendar year gets underway, new initiatives and trends will emerge to impact teaching and learning in K-12 schools.

6 trends to watch in K-12 schools in 2024

As a new calendar year gets underway, new initiatives and trends will emerge to impact teaching and learning

This post originally appeared on the Christensen Institute’s blog and is reposted here with permission.

Key points:

As we move through the beginning of 2024, parent power, rethinking assessments, and career and technical education (CTE) for every student are some of the trends rippling through K-12 education.

Here are six top trends for educators, parents, and policymakers to understand.

1. The rise of homeschooling

It’s not new to note that homeschooling has grown significantly over the last few years since the start of the pandemic and diversified even more. Even mainstream media has picked up on the trend and called it the fastest-growing segment of schooling. My read is slightly different. The news should be that the growth in homeschooling from the pandemic is proving much stickier than people originally expected it to be. But the breakneck growth has slowed. It may even be declining.

2. Parent power

The bigger trend is that parents are feeling much more empowered to make choices about their children’s education. Not only are they choosing homeschooling, but more families are also choosing other alternative forms of schooling, such as private schoolscharter schools, virtual schools, microschools, and a variety of hybrid homeschooling arrangements in which parents are stitching together their child’s schooling from a range of options.

Parents are also exerting themselves within schools by advocating for changes in curriculum and instruction—whether that’s to move to reading instruction in line with the evidence of how students become good readers, or in the way the books in a school library reflect a community’s values.

But broadly speaking, this parent-power movement is creating a flourish of different schooling arrangements as parents want to ensure their children make progress in their development. A big question for this movement will be the sustainability of the supply of microschools and other educational options. Many of the microschools that have popped up are small co-ops that a single teacher, who is disaffected with their public school, decided to create. Will these communities be sustainable in the long run? It’s unclear at best. For-profit and nonprofit companies are also continuing to grow to fuel the microschool movement—from Wildflower School’s Montessori microschools to Acton Academy and Kaipod Learning.

3. Education savings accounts

Related to the parent-power trend is the growth of education savings accounts (ESAs)—with 13 states now having such policies. ESAs are not vouchers. They are a much deeper form of supporting educational choice in which the state funds a savings account, and a family is allowed to spend the dollars in that account on a wide range of educational goods and services. That’s different from a voucher, which is essentially a ticket for one kind of educational service—a school—and you either use it or lose it. With an ESA, there is an incentive for a family to shop for value and save money until they find the right service for their child—they can spend the dollars across school tuition, piano lessons, online courses, equine therapy, and more. ESAs are popular among people with different political beliefs. But they have largely been passed in right-leaning states to this point. There is an ongoing discussion about the accountability for these dollars, with some arguing that parents making choices is the ultimate accountability, whereas others want to see more traditional measures of accountability put in place.

4. Challenges for traditional school districts

Many traditional school districts are continuing to struggle given this context. They’ve lost students, particularly in urban and high-poverty districts, to other schools. They’ve shrunk because there are fewer students thanks to a broader demographic decline in new births that began in 2008 and hasn’t changed. They’ve struggled with chronic absenteeism.

What’s behind many of these struggles is a one-size-fits-all mindset that clashes with education pluralism and parents’ more active desires for customized support and schooling models to ensure that their children make progress. Moreover, a compliance mindset that pervades many districts has further hindered them. That mindset can be seen in many districts’ immediate action to ban generative artificial intelligence, not explore how it could help them achieve their goals for each student.

What should schools do? That’s the topic of my book, From Reopen to Reinvent. But the shorthand is they should be creating autonomous educational offerings where they can lean into the drive for customization and rethink schooling.

5. Portrait of a graduate and rethinking assessment

An increasing number of states have moved to create portraits of a graduate—what they believe students should know and be able to do upon graduation. These measures are much broader than just the standards underlying required graduation requirements. But they are also, to this point, largely aspirational. They aren’t backed by assessments that verify a student has mastered the competencies underlying such portraits. That’s part of what’s creating a window for rethinking assessment more broadly. The Carnegie Foundation in partnership with ETS, New Meridian,, and others are seeking to take advantage. I hope that this movement will open a larger window for mastery-based, or competency-based, learning, such that we prioritize the success of every single child, not just the few who can keep up with the lockstep pace of schooling.

6. CTE for all

There is a growing realization that the “college-for-all” movement of the last several decades has not served all students well. Many students who start bachelor’s degree programs do not complete them. When they leave college with student debt, the outcomes are horrendous. There is a growing recognition that we need to bring back career and technical education, but that it must not repeat the mistakes of vocational education, which was often a tracked system based on race. Instead, the path forward should be to make sure all students experience meaningful work-based learning as part of their middle and high school experiences. These experiences can help them start to learn about different career options; build their sense of what they like and dislike about them; understand what it takes to do certain careers—the path, the time, the money; and build social capital so they can go out and seize the opportunities that speak to them. As dual enrollment increasingly blurs the lines between high school and college, we should also make sure that meaningful work-based learning experiences become part of middle and high school for all students—and that they can then make informed choices about their post-high school pathway.

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