Predicting innovation trajectories in K-12 education

There are lots of promising innovations in tiny pockets of the education system, but decades of advocacy and investment have failed to see those innovations scale. How can we better predict which innovations flourish and which founder?”

My last blog post argued that new value networks are the missing enablers for disrupting the conventional model of K–12 schooling. But the concept of value networks can do more than explain why disruptive models struggle to take root. All organizations live within value networks. And analyzing an organization’s value network makes clear whether and how it will approach potential improvements and innovations.

What are value networks?…Read More

How schools can become air quality champions this year

The COVID-19 pandemic affected every aspect of our lives for more than two years, but perhaps the hardest hit population were children who suddenly found themselves unable to go to school. This was disruptive not only from an educational standpoint, but socially, as well. That’s why school districts have done everything in their power so that children can experience a normal 2022–2023 school year. But that can only happen if superintendents make safety a top priority to prevent coronavirus outbreaks that could derail their carefully planned back-to-school plans. And it all starts with air quality. 

This isn’t just a local issue. Over the coming months, the Biden administration will be honoring and highlighting school districts who are excelling in their efforts to improve indoor air quality. It’s a great opportunity for leaders to be recognized for their amazing work, and to instill confidence in a public that is still skeptical that the worst days of the pandemic are behind us. 

According to a recent statement from the White House, in addition to vaccines, boosters, and COVID tests, one of the pillars of keeping schools open is, “helping schools plan and implement indoor air quality improvements.” Schools will have access to federal funds to optimize ventilation through inspection, repairs, upgrades, and replacements in their HVAC systems, as well as installing new systems that facilitate better ventilation. …Read More

5 ways to support educator well-being this school year

Educators, I see you. I know it’s been a rough couple of years.

From teaching through a global pandemic to adjusting in real time to teacher shortages and policy changes, from worrying about school safety to trying to manage more disruptive behavior in your classroom, this past school year alone has presented huge challenges.

As humans, we are neurobiologically wired for connection – it’s in our DNA. And, as educators, you are wired to help support the students (and fellow educators) you serve – it’s why you entered this profession to begin with. However, due to all of the external (and internal) pressures, you and so many other educators are likely feeling burned out, exhausted, and overwhelmed.…Read More

10 SEL activities for high school students

Between balancing core instruction, administering assessments, grading homework, and ensuring students are prepared for college and career, high school teachers have a lot on their plates. SEL activities can make your jobs easier!

When students have strong social and emotional skills, they are more motivated, engaged, and understand the value of their learning. SEL also helps reduce disruptive behavior and office referrals, which allows teachers to spend more time on their instruction. Additionally, SEL activities can improve high school students’ college and career readiness and help them set goals for life after high school.

It’s easy to integrate SEL activities in your core instruction! Here are 10 activities and lesson ideas for high school students–organized by subject area–to get you started.…Read More

5 ways for school leaders to promote equity, student agency

Students continue to struggle against persistent educational inequities, and while they report worrisome levels of disengagement, a move toward student-directed learning could help students and educators alike find a better path toward impactful learning experiences.

The report, Empowering and Engaging Student Voice to Create Equity in Education, comes from Project Tomorrow, a national education nonprofit supporting the implementation of research-based learning experiences, and Blackboard Inc., a global edtech software and solutions company. It leverages key insights from a survey of 50,000 K-12 students, parents, and educators during the 2020-21 school year.

“The disruptive events of the past 18 months with the pandemic and shifts in learning modalities have opened our collective eyes to several new truths including about the interrelationship between equity and student empowerment as documented in this new report,” said Dr. Julie A. Evans, chief researcher and CEO of Project Tomorrow. “With the research in front of us, we cannot look away now but must take this opportunity in time to re-think the ways we are approaching learning and especially how technology can be better used to support student engagement in learning.” …Read More

Digital tools prove critical for early learners during COVID

For early learners, nothing beats in-class learning. Having a teacher in close proximity to assess the needs of their students is critical for growth.

2020 threw a wrench in that format, forcing students and teachers to communicate digitally. While the year was disruptive on many levels, educators found ways to persevere. After all, sitting by idly and missing time to shape future generations simply was not an option.

For all the pandemic is and was, it has forced positive growth, flexibility, adaptability, and innovation. Still, it has been tough on teachers and their students.…Read More

Leading in this time of crisis

Henry (Hank) Thiele, Superintendent for Community High School District 99 in Thorndale (IL) can’t stop looking forward.

Despite the current, daily chaos of re-opening and lockdowns, hybrid and remote learning, and other disruptive undercurrents affecting schools, he believes that being prepared for what’s next is as important as dealing with the problems of right now.

In this conversation with eSchool News, Hank offers his insights for education professionals that will have to deal with fractured communities in the future even after they are “back to normal.”…Read More

Parents are critical to college and career readiness

On March 13, Keller, a second grader at Vermont’s Hinesburg Elementary, came home from school and didn’t return for six months. Like 20 million other students across the United States, Keller, with no preparation or warning, abruptly shifted to online learning.

Two hundred miles south of Hinesburg, Matt was a ninth grader when COVID-19 struck in Boston. Like Keller, he left school in mid-March and has not been back since. Thus began the most disruptive period in the history of American education.

Pick Boston, Hinesburg, or any other city or small town, and the story’s the same: Most students are learning less, and 10 percent of America’s K-12-aged students no longer attend class, either in-person or virtual.…Read More

Is it time to retire letter grades?

The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly disruptive to education, hindering instruction and other services for thousands — perhaps millions — of K-12 students across the United States. But those who see the glass as half full would say it has also presented schools with a unique opportunity for change.

Count Michael Horn among these optimists. In his podcast series “Class Disrupted,” Horn — an author and consultant who focuses on the future of education — has teamed up with Diane Tavenner, co-founder and CEO of the Summit Public Schools charter network, to discuss how the sudden shift to remote learning this past spring exposed the limitations of many educational structures we take for granted. Yet, it also suggests what might be possible if K-12 leaders are bold enough to see a new way forward, Horn and Tavenner agree.

For instance, a lot of the time wasted in transitioning from one class to another during a traditional school day could be reclaimed for learning and practicing essential life skills, they say. The factory-style model that herds students in groups from class to class could be replaced by a more personalized, student-centered approach that caters to each child’s unique interests and learning needs. And the letter-grade system that schools have been using to evaluate student learning for generations could be supplanted by a mastery-based grading system that gives stakeholders much more insight into what students know.…Read More

Now the hard work starts

Eileen Belastock has been waiting for this moment, just not under these circumstances. As Director of Academic Technology for Mount Greylock Regional School District, which serves 1,250 students in western Massachusetts, she has all along been advocating for teacher buy-in to the use of tech and the need for every student to have devices and access to the internet.

All it took was a global pandemic for everyone else to agree with her.

Related content: How this district pivoted with the pandemic…Read More