Learning and education lean forward

Experts say what SHOULD happen, and predict what WILL happen in K12
By: | December 6, 2017

What should happen and what will happen in various areas of education over the next few years elicits different answers from educators and from other experts.

For example, one expert on teaching believes districts should be supported with the funding to retain their best teachers. However, this expert believes state policymakers will continue to lower standards for teaching certifications in an effort to fill perceived shortages.

One administrator says educators still need to upgrade their skills when it comes to teaching with technology. At the same time, more schools will make better use of augmented reality and wearable technology in 2018 and beyond.

The forecasts below also cover assessment, English language learners and social-emotional learning, among other topics. Read on to see if they match your outlook on the future of public K12 instruction.

Assessment

Theresa Morris, mathematics assessment developer of Stanford Center for Assessment, Learning, and Equity

How it should evolve: Reduce end-of-year, high-stakes tests

Educators should shift to more frequent and varied assessments that judge students on assignments that require them to tackle real-life concepts.

These types of assessments—when conducted at the time students are mastering specific concepts—more accurately measure whether students are developing soft skills such as communication, collaboration and problem-solving, Morris says.

“Waiting for the one, end-of-year assessment is archaic” she says. “It’s efficient, but that’s about all it is. Does it tell us everything we need to know? No.”

She hopes that states such as Texas, which is moving toward a frequent-and-varied assessment system, will provide proof of improved student outcomes to convince more states to make changes.

How it will evolve: Community-based accountability systems

To better assess overall performance of schools and districts, the Texas Association of School Administrators and other organizations are developing community-based accountability systems.

“If what’s important is that the community is reflected in the classrooms, then you have to have the buy-in and connections that are missing in so many cases” she says.

That means providing community members with thorough reports on academics, finance, safety and other topics. This will be a more effective system than states issuing letter grades to individual schools, she says.

Teaching

Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality

How it should evolve: Bigger push to attract and retain quality teachers

“We need a massive overhaul in pay and not just base pay, which is really low in some places. We also need differentiated pay” Walsh says.

For example, schools may have to pay STEM teachers more, particularly in high schools. Over the last few decades, administrators have had trouble retaining top STEM instructors, who can often find higher salaries in the private sector. States should also become more deliberate about filling shortages in certain disciplines.

While there are plenty of student teachers who want to work in mainstream elementary school classrooms, states need to require more candidates to pursue special education credentials. Finally, teachers willing to work in impoverished or rural districts—as well as those who simply excel—deserve base pay increases, rather than bonuses.

“You have to make it something on which you can base a mortgage” she says.

How it will evolve: Lowering qualifications for teachers

Some states have allowed districts to fill classrooms with local professionals through alternative programs that don’t require traditional credentials—and Walsh expects this trend to spread.

“We’re already seeing the fallout from everyone buying into the idea of a national teacher shortage” Walsh says. “We’re seeing states rolling back what were already pretty low bars for entry into the profession.”

Some areas and disciplines have experienced shortages, Walsh concedes, but 400,000 teaching jobs have been added over the last few years as the student population has remained the same. “That could not have happened if there was a national teacher shortage” she says.

Social-emotional learning

Tamara Fyke, author of Love in a Big World and SEL curriculum developer

How it should evolve:

Interest in more intentional SEL continues to grow rapidly. Still, many educators feel they don’t have the time or resources to launch a comprehensive initiative. Teachers need PD to blend SEL into everyday instruction, rather than offering it as a separate lesson.

“They need to see it as part of what they already do so they don’t see it as a burden” Fyke says.

One way funding might increase is if schools, districts or states can connect SEL to a growth in test scores and other performance measurements.

How it will evolve:

“I’m grieved by the fact that we have so many kids dealing with big life issues” Fyke says. “But I’m thankful the pendulum has swung away from test scores to looking at the needs of kids as human beings.”

More districts will consider trauma-informed teaching methods and revise disciplinary systems with practices such as restorative justice—which focuses on repairing damage rather than punishment. The current volatile political climate is also helping people in and outside education realize the importance of SEL instruction in promoting civil discourse.

Enrollment & Choice

Brian Eschbacher, executive director of planning & enrollment services of Denver Public Schools

How should it evolve:

Districts could provide more information to better help parents in the research process when choosing schools.

“How do we make getting into schools as equitable as possible?” Eschbacher says. “How can we teach parents about schools so they don’t have to spend 40 hours doing research? That can be overwhelming when they have so many things going on.”

Districts could leverage websites to provide families with seat inventories at each school—much like big box stores, such as Best Buy, let consumers know how many units of a particular TV are in stock. Eschbacher hopes to see more school systems using data to match students to schools.

This could reduce waiting lists and better ensure schools in a district are evenly filled.

Districts also should work to accommodate families who move into a district after the choice process has been completed. Denver, for example, holds back seats until the start of each school year.

“We have to shift to year-round school choice” he says. “Not just one round of school choice.”

How will it evolve:

Districts are making the enrollment process easier for parents. In Houston, Families Empowered recently launched a single application system for more than 50 charter schools in the city.

“You’re hearing the parent voice coming through more than some of the politicians and that’s a great thing” Eschbacher says. “Regardless of whether you like charters, we can all agree that making it easier is better.”

Denver now offers one application for its charters and district schools, and other cities are making similar changes.

Professional Development

Jennifer Abrams, consultant, former coach for new teachers in several Silicon Valley public school districts

How should it evolve: Don’t abandon in-person PD for online programs

“For some types of professional learning, those mediums can be effective, yet I worry we might move too far into that direction and lose sight of