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3 Trends to Watch: Anticipating What’s Next for Education

Dr. Shelby McIntosh

“Where did the day go?”

In the busy life of a school leader, it’s easy to get tunnel vision.

It’s hard to step back and see the big picture, to get a sense for how teaching and learning is changing.

And it is changing—big time.

This post is the first in a new occasional series for TrustED, “What’s Next for Education.”

Each installment will feature insights from a prominent education leader about the future of education in America’s K12 schools. The goal is to step back, take a breath and look at the possibilities, and the challenges, that lie ahead.

This week, Dr. Shelby McIntosh, a former teacher and research associate for the Center on Education Policy, offers her take on the changing nature of school and community engagement.

Leaders will continue to tackle issues of race and diversity in their schools.

We, unfortunately, live in a world of heightened racial tension. One only has to watch the news to understand that.

Our schools are not immune to the continuing tumult.

School districts have to face these issues head-on with ongoing dialogues and support for both students and parents.

The good news, according to McIntosh?

Schools can lead on this important issue by “engaging and educating students in a way that makes these issues not part of our future.”

Local school communities will have a bigger say in school improvement efforts.

We’re entering a new era for K12 education. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives states and districts more leeway to assess their school performance and experiment with new approaches.

This is especially true when it comes to school improvement efforts, says McIntosh:

Since No Child Left Behind, improvement efforts have been top-down starting at the federal level. This usually means an infusion of funding with a ton of strings and requirements attached. I think what we’re starting to see is the federal government backing off a bit and state governments looking for ways to support and empower local improvement efforts.

Are your schools prepared for this increasing responsibility? Is your community?

As your schools and districts roll out reforms under ESSA, McIntosh suggests taking steps to include your community in the decision-making process.

Customer service will become a major priority for schools.

“Whether it’s because they are competing for students or because they understand that strong customer service means happier parents, I think we’ll see more and more districts focusing on improving in this area,” says McIntosh.

Perhaps no school leader understands the importance of customer service better than Dr. Wendy Robinson, superintendent at Fort Wayne Community Schools in Indiana.

Robinson and her team place a high priority on engaging students, parents, community members, and staff to improve the school experience and create personal connections.

“We have to understand that we do have customers,” Robinson says, “we’re not a monopoly just because we are the public school system. We have to treat our customers the way customers want to be treated anywhere in the world.”

Faced with increased competition and sinking enrollments, schools have to make listening a priority—ready or not.

Want more ideas for how to engage your school community?

Download The School Leader’s Definitive Guide to Customer Service. You’ll learn:

  • The importance of customer service in schools.
  • How to set goals for stronger community engagement.
  • Ways to embrace a culture of responsiveness.

Do you agree with these trends? Are there others that you think should be on this list? Tell us in the comments, or share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #WhatsNextTrustED.

Stay tuned for future installments in the What’s Next for Education series.