3 issues administrators say currently impact district operations

”The amount of students who need mental health support and interventions outnumbers the amount of spots that we have available,” one administrator said in a new report

K12 administrators are riding a new wave of responsibilities and complexities surrounding educational leadership. Many leaders we’ve talked to in recent years stress the importance of transparency.  However, leaders today face more challenges than ever, so where should they devote their energy?

It’s a question researchers at Frontline Education, a K12 school administration software provider, sought to answer in their latest survey of nearly 700 K12 administrators to understand the challenges—whether past, current or prospective—impacting school district operations. The responses unveiled three prominent areas of focus that school leaders are paying close attention to in 2024:

  • Growing human capital
  • Supporting students holistically
  • Protecting essential district resources

”The goal of this report is to share data that encourages reflection,” the survey reads. “By leveraging these insights, district leaders can chart a course towards improved outcomes for both students and staff, aligning their efforts with overarching trends in K12 education.”

Let’s break down the data associated with each priority, starting with growing human capital.

More than two-thirds (67%) of administrators say it’s become more difficult to increase staffing in the past year. Another 41% report retention rates between 81-90%.

Survey respondents were also asked to identify their greatest shortage areas. The most common staff shortages exist in that of special education, followed by:

  • Substitutes
  • Paraprofessionals
  • Math
  • ESL
  • Science
  • Bilingual
  • Counseling
  • Foreign language
  • Career and tech ed
  • Speech therapy

The solution? An overwhelming 96% believe professional, development is the key to greater engagement and retention, specifically PD surrounding:

  • Digital tools
  • Student-centered approaches
  • Classroom management
  • Social-emotional learning

In terms of student support initiatives, some 52% say they track EWI (early warning indicators of risk) for grades 1-5, including student attendance, behavior and coursework.

Additionally, 50% of administrators say they know “for sure” which students are receiving intervention based on their EWI data. Another one-third know the share of students in their districts who are chronically absent.

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One of the central findings surrounding student support suggests that students’ mental health is top-of-mind. Many administrators believe that a student’s home life impacts their attendance, behavior and academic performance. However, many districts struggle to address this need.

”The amount of students who need mental health support and interventions outnumbers the amount of spots that we have available,” one administrator said in the report. “Our professionals who work with at-risk students and students who struggle with mental health are overloaded.”

However, the student-centered initiatives are in place throughout many districts, the survey notes. These mental health-centered initiatives include:

  • Employing a least one full-time employee dedicated to students’ mental health (73%)
  • Proactive mental health support for students (55%)
  • Regular mental health screenings for students (22%)
  • Software tools to document mental health (18%)
  • None of the above (12%)

Finally, a large number of administrators foresee a grim future as it relates to funding for technology. According to the data, one-fourth of leaders say they lack confidence in budgeting for future technology needs. Moreover, 45% saw decreased funding as a result of legislative changes.

Specifically, district leaders say they’re more confident in managing their schools’ day-to-day tech needs rather than meeting future needs. For instance, 39% report feeling “completely confident” in managing device distribution and collection. On the other hand, just 20% say they feel “completely confident” in forecasting budgets to meet future technology needs.

Leaders also pointed out that their top tech-related challenge is boosting their district’s cybersecurity. You can dive further into the comprehensive report here.

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttps://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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