School districts across the country have missed the mark when it comes to maintaining acceptable enrollment rates.
The ripple effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have only exacerbated the challenges K-12 districts face, and a modern approach to learning is more necessary than ever before.
Communities have responded with generous federal funding for schools and a push for new technologies to empower student learning. However, we still need to ask ourselves several questions about the future:
From tight budgets to the slow adoption of new technologies, school district leaders everywhere have identified the next priorities and challenges for the upcoming school year. We have the potential to solve these problems but will need policy changes and a sufficient investment into new tools and technologies to do so.
This article will detail the primary focal points of teachers, counselors, leaders, and information officers in schools across the country. We will explore Edsembli’s role as a long-term solution to the growing needs of K-12 districts for the coming school year and beyond.
Surveys of school districts and their surrounding communities shed light on the current concerns facing K-12 institutions in the wake of COVID-19. These problems either arose as a result of recent lockdowns or became more pressing, prompting district leaders to enact changes in policies and implement new tools and technologies.
Tailoring Education to the Needs of Individual Students
Everybody’s different, so why should our schooling systems treat all students the same? Instructors across the country have emphasized the importance of personalized learning experiences, and one of the themes this year is tier-based instruction.
This tier-based approach not only provides extra help to those who need it but also enriches the learning experience for high achievers. It mandates universal performance screening to identify students who need to move tiers.
K-12 leaders have noticed a troubling trend of having too many students in tier 2 or 3 instruction. Recent shortages of staff, among other challenges, have forced teachers to resort to specialists and community support to fill in the gaps in tier 1 instruction. Given the importance of the universal learning experience, instructors today must strike a balance between whole-class activities and special accommodations. Other concerns include the slow implementation of multi-tier systems in the field.
Beyond the tiers is a general push for personalized learning experiences, which can involve:
And many of the challenges impeding personalized learning that teachers and K-12 administrators cite include:
Personalization is heavily dependent on gathering data on the student body. While teachers do agree that data is valuable, they often have trouble making sense of it. The right technical stack, including a student information system, is the solution to visualizing the data and generating actionable insights from it.
Additional policies also help. Professional learning communities help staff utilize data effectively and change their teaching strategies accordingly.
Weaving Emotional Maturity and Social Development into the Curriculum
K-12 school districts are now looking for ways to prepare students for college, careers, and life in general after high school. In addition to academic knowledge, they aim beyond the classroom to teach:
These programs actually bolster academic performance and reduce the incidence of conduct problems at school, suggesting that emotional development and learning needs are heavily related.
School district leaders have responded with professional training for staff to address social and emotional learning and the use of technology to monitor student behavior and guide decision-making in this regard.
The student-teacher relationship has also received immense attention from K-12 leaders. Today’s schools are looking for a positive approach to addressing behavioral problems. Positive reinforcement encourages students to contribute to the classroom environment and teaches problem-solving and interpersonal skills.
However, progress remains slow partly because of the pandemic. Remote learning may hinder social development in students, and reduced attendance rates remain an issue. Districts must bring students back into the classroom to reinvigorate school culture and emotional development.
Getting Students Ready For Their Future Careers
The pathway to a successful professional life should ideally begin as early as elementary school, where students expose themselves to potential fields of study. In middle school, research projects and group activities should spark further interest, followed by hands-on experience in high school.
K-12 school districts must foster this path through career readiness tools and resources:
The slow adoption rates of these resources prompt district leaders to give more attention to career readiness. Many schools unfortunately don’t offer many options to students outside of AP or IB coursework.
Schools should also focus on providing instruction in computer and IT-related topics. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment in this field will grow 15% in the 2020s, among the highest rates in the job market, yet few schools offer studies in this regard.
Above all, district leaders emphasize the need for student perspectives when designing courses. By leveraging technology to solicit student opinions, districts can offer curricula that match the interests of their student bodies.
Involving Families and Communities in the Learning Process
It takes a village to raise a child, and K-12 leaders have always emphasized collaboration between schools and parents during the learning experience. Parental involvement boosts community awareness of student needs and increases engagement in class. It also helps reverse the enrollment declines brought on by the pandemic.
For instance, teachers encourage positive learning experiences at home outside of the classroom, where parents can teach their children personal skills like time management. School administrators also want to find common ground with the surrounding community to solve issues related to student well-being.
It’s no surprise then why technology took hold during this time, especially learning management systems and communication platforms. High adoption rates of these tools by families everywhere show that we’re closing the learning curve quickly. At the same time, we want to unify our tool sets and use centralized platforms to cut down on complexity and overcommunication.
Keeping Up Early Childhood Education
An often neglected aspect of the K-12 experience is what comes beforehand. Preschool enrollment notably took a hit across the country as health and safety concerns shut down many early education institutions.
Communities today want to re-engage learners at this level and help young children transition from preschool to kindergarten and later grades. Many advisory councils have started to assist in this endeavor.
Empowering Teachers and Staff with the Right Support and Resources
Motivated and cohesive staff play an indomitable role in student success, from the teachers to district coordinators, sports coaches, psychiatrists, and principals. It’s a cause for concern to see high staff turnovers and absences due to:
In response, school districts are looking to implement professional learning communities, coaching efforts, and workshops to support staff. They also encourage collaboration among departments to raise staff morale and expertise.
Teacher evaluations are also useful for monitoring performance and making adjustments accordingly, though debates still arise regarding how to balance accountability with support.
And do not underestimate the impact of technology. HR and payroll software accelerates recruitment and onboarding of new instructors and staff and helps organize professional learning efforts. The result is higher staff retention and fewer disruptions for students.
Prioritizing Operational and Administrative Efficiency
In the past, decisions regarding the use of technologies and funds at school have taken a backseat compared to academic performance and test scores, at least during district discussions. However, we’re seeing a shift in priorities as the need for more operational efficiency becomes clearer.
School districts became more aware of inefficient work processes, ranging from manual accounting workflows to disparate operations in siloed departments. Even with generous federal relief programs, schools often struggled with finances and had to upgrade their management platforms accordingly.
At the forefront of modern school management are investments into educational technologies, including student information systems, financial management platforms, student data analytics, and communication services. The K-12 sector will see investments into enterprise resource planning and HR tools grow in the coming years.
Upgrading Our Tools and Technologies Responsibly
New technologies have been a recurring theme throughout this article. To help our students keep up with an ever-evolving world, we need up-to-date software tools to help them along the learning process. When implemented with proper preparation and best practices in mind, the technology stack is one of the most disruptive changes in K-12 education to date.
But just as important as our choice of software is how we transition into using it. During COVID-19, the abrupt switch to remote learning caught many teachers and students off-guard, resulting in unprecedented logistical challenges and technical issues.
Other issues include the accessibility of devices and sufficient Internet connections for students at home, as well as cybersecurity concerns when sharing sensitive data across online systems. However, adopting new technologies is still worth the effort, as it opens new doors for boosting student engagement, family involvement, and new teaching strategies.
For example, we can streamline administrative workflows currently burden school districts across the country through a connected ecosystem that seamlessly unifies data and processes. Edsembli functions as an education-focused ERP software that unifies HR, finance, educators, students, and parents — eliminating the need for fragmented, disparate solutions.
But one significant consideration that goes under the radar much too often is data privacy and cybersecurity, especially when handling sensitive student information. Ransomware attacks, phishing, and data breaches impact businesses, non-profit organizations, and schools alike.
K-12 districts must look to interoperable platforms with user authentication and account security features. For instance, single sign-on and multi-factor authentication assists teachers and management teams in protecting important data at school.
The early 2020s have proven to be a challenging yet transformative era for K-12 school districts. Teachers, district leaders, families, and community members have brought up various concerns about the direction of education.
Some of the most popular talking points include incorporating emotional development into the curriculum, involving families and communities in the learning process, empowering teachers and staff with proper support, and increasing workflow efficiency at school.
However, there are also many opportunities to modernize education with the right technologies — something Edsembli continues to solve through our cloud-based Ecosystem. We partner with leading school districts, providing a connected platform, powerful functionality, and data analytics to help school districts overcome their biggest technology challenges.
Is your K-12 school district looking for the right tech stack to serve as the foundation for innovation and growth? Bring your school district into the 21st century with the Edsembli Ecosystem. Book a demo and see how Edsembli is empowering education with the tools it needs to make an impact.