Insights from educators: Priorities for 2023-2024

Key points:

Education news is full of trends and predictions for the new school year, but hearing from the folks doing the work is a more direct path to understanding what educators need at this moment.

Heading into the 2023-2024 school year, K-12 teachers and principals are sharing their honest views on their goals and challenges. Let’s uncover what really matters to educators and how it’s shaping our schools.…Read More

It’s critical to promote mental health supports at the start of the school year

Key points:

As the new academic year approaches, it’s crucial to pay attention to an aspect of school life that often doesn’t feature prominently in back-to-school prep: mental health. For both educators and students, safeguarding mental health is important to promoting a positive, supportive, and successful educational environment.

Anxiety, stress, and uncertainty can permeate the school atmosphere at the beginning of the year. Teachers might face pressures from lesson planning, meeting new students, or adjusting to changes in curriculum. Students often grapple with academic pressures, extracurricular activities, social dynamics, and the transition from lazy days spent playing on devices to the more structured school day. These collective stressors necessitate an emphasis on mental health support.…Read More

Districts brace for fiscal cliff as COVID relief funding nears an end

Key points:

  • COVID relief funding must be spent in the next year, but administrators are grappling with inflation and high costs that have shifted priorities
  • One-third of superintendents believe all students will be impacted equally by the discontinuation of ARP-funded instructional programs
  • See related article: Federal COVID relief funding will dry up soon. Are districts ready?

With one year remaining to spend close to $200 billion in federal COVID relief funds, more than half of school district leaders are shifting their American Rescue Plan (ARP) spending decisions due to higher-than-expected costs and inflation, according to a survey administered by AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

Educator feedback and the need to further direct resources toward the social and emotional needs of students were cited by nearly half of district leaders as the source for realigning spending priorities and decisions.…Read More

4 back-to-school cybersecurity tips

Key points:

Due to budget and resource constraints, many schools and other academic organizations are only able to implement very basic cybersecurity tools and processes, and this leaves them extremely vulnerable to cyberattacks.

We’ve seen this play out over the past 12 months with high-profile attacks on school districts in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Tucson, Ariz., among many others. And, because cybercriminals can compromise school networks for big gains with very little effort, we expect attacks on education will only increase.…Read More

3 ways MDM helps fight school cyberattacks

Last September, the Los Angeles Unified School District was hit by a ransomware attack at the start of the new school year. The second-largest educational district in the country, with more than 600,000 students and 25,000 employees, had its email taken offline and other internal systems affected by the cyberattack. When the district chose not to pay the ransom, sensitive employee data was posted online. While this attack may seem extraordinary because of its size and scope, digital security breaches like this are happening at educational institutions across the country. And school districts need to take defensive action against cyberattacks now before it’s too late.

With school districts across the U.S. being targeted by cyberattacks, the need for robust, cost-effective cybersecurity support is not just important–it’s now considered essential. But many local governments and educational institutions remain unprepared for this type of active threat. A recent report by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on the K-12 school cybersecurity landscape found that close to 50 percent of the school districts in the country have neither the staff nor the budget to adequately protect their IT infrastructure.  

As schools look for solutions to bridge this security gap, one easy and cost-effective method they should consider is the adoption of mobile device management (MDM) platforms. A small number of schools are currently using this solution to their advantage. This includes public schools like the Interboro School District in Prospect Park, PA, which employs MDM to manage a fleet of iPads used to supplement classroom instruction. Interboro uses MDM to ensure the tablets are secure and functioning properly, the students using them are staying safe online, and the costs associated with maintaining the devices are minimized.…Read More

Rethinking your K-12 cloud strategy

The new school year is upon us, and IT teams are ramping up strategic tech investments and systems to help ensure a smooth year ahead. For many of these IT teams, challenges around cybersecurity are top of mind, with recent research revealing over half of lower education organizations were hit by ransomware in the past year. On top of this, concerns remain around cloud costs, including new limits on free cloud storage, leaving some wondering what they’re supposed to do and having to pay up.

In light of these shifts and growing risks, K-12 IT teams need to rethink their approach to cloud storage costs and security. We recently experienced challenges at Hotchkiss School with our past cloud providers in this regard. We could not obtain the amount of secure storage we needed due to not only data consumption and performance challenges, but also because of their egress fees. In order to modernize and innovate, education decision-makers will need to embrace hybrid or multi-cloud storage options that keep their data secure by moving away from mainstream, high-cost cloud providers.

Further, to meet growing demands on schools’ IT departments, IT leaders will need to adopt a flexible cloud mindset that enables them to effectively and securely store and leverage the growing deluge of data they are inundated with – everything from student health care data to device and research data. Let’s dive into how a high performance, multi-cloud approach can help K-12 schools check the following major pain points off their list.…Read More

Don’t wait to secure your endpoints from cyberattacks

As we enter a new school year, among the myriad things that instructors and administrators need to be concerned about, ransomware remains high on the list. According to the K-12 Security Information Exchange, there were 166 publicly disclosed cyber incidents affecting 162 school districts across 38 states during the 2021 calendar year.

The rise of remote learning and the use of more devices comes with a price – more endpoints mean more opportunities for potential exploitation. This isn’t a new refrain, but we continue to see challenges facing endpoint security. Cyberattacks against schools can result in closures, not to mention high and unbudgeted remediation and recovery costs.

School districts are already grappling with one of the hardest missions out there – educating our youth – and having to worry about a potential data breach can’t take away from this. Fortunately, in this situation, knowledge is power. Understanding the potential risks that your endpoints face is key to knowing what needs to happen to mitigate these risks and keep your information and systems safe.…Read More

What if we gave every teacher a work from home day?

School and district-based staff are understandably wary about the new school year. Teachers, the majority of whom are women, are struggling under the immense pressure of pandemic schooling. Many have worked long hours to try to support their own families while keeping up with the demands of online teaching and changing COVID-19 protocols.

Teacher retention rates were already declining pre-pandemic, and the shortage of educators across roles may be widening. Preparation programs are facing fewer numbers of new educators entering the workforce; thirteen percent of graduate programs surveyed by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education reported seeing “significant declines” in the numbers of new students. Of those graduating, many may be turning to remote options right out of the gate. Member programs in the national Virtual Learning Leadership Alliance reported increased hiring of online teachers since 2020.

Educators want the same flexibility that’s traditionally more available to those in corporate settings. In a 2021 survey, fifteen percent of teachers said flexibility to work from home would “make a major difference in reducing the likelihood they leave the profession.”…Read More

3 steps to creating a comfortable learning environment

Students have started a new school year and are facing the many challenges still present with in-person learning amid a pandemic. One of the most important to address is how schools address student safety and health–both physical and mental. CDC research has already documented the negative effects COVID-19 has inflicted upon children’s mental well-being.

Schools that established health and safety policies and procedures before this academic year began are best poised to help protect their students’ well-being. But it’s not too late–as school leaders confront the evolving situation, security technology can help build an environment where students feel safe, comfortable, and confident, and where every person’s well-being is prioritized.

Integrating security technology doesn’t have to be a complex process. Keep reading for an easy-to-follow approach school leaders can use to identify and execute on opportunities for enhancing their students’ health and safety journey.…Read More

Using the rule of threes for a technology strategy

As the new school year starts amid fresh uncertainty, educators are grappling with how to navigate what I’ve come to call the “And Era.” The And Era is not about going only remote or returning to purely in-person experiences, but adopting the best of both. While many schools are bringing kids back into classrooms this year, the spread of the Delta variant and other factors out of their control mean they must again be prepared to support a mix of virtual and in-person learning.

That means focusing on what they can control–developing and deploying a strong technology strategy that will give them the agility to combine varying degrees of in-person and remote elements into a seamless learning experience. The heart of that strategy should center around three interdependent components: hardware, software, and the network.

While the stakes are enormous, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and its $130 billion in new K-12 funding offers great hope that schools will be able to secure the technology, expertise- and resources they need to build an educational infrastructure for the next generation. Given the possibility that many students will spend one-fourth of their learning journey under these trying circumstances, making best use of those funds to implement a thoughtful technology strategy is more important than ever.…Read More

Delta variant forcing districts to find new ways to assess learning

At this point last year, we hoped we’d be on the other side of COVID-19. Instead, the combination of the Delta variant and a new school year means educators and administrators are finding themselves in a state of flux. Cases in school districts are on the rise. Large numbers of students are quarantining. In some instances, there aren’t enough teachers in school buildings to conduct in-person learning.

As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic, teachers are facing a whole new type of disruption to their ability to teach. Now more than ever, they need to be able to continually assess learning, to have a line of sight into what students know and what students do not yet know.

Why is it so hard right now?…Read More