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3 Key Priorities for School Districts: Navigating What’s Next in Education

Gregg Levin

School choice. Equity. Safety and bullying. The list of challenges faced by America’s public schools is seemingly endless.

As school systems navigate the shifting education landscape, they need to offer a broader array of academic options within their districts as well as prioritize non-academic measures of accountability, like quality customer service.

That’s according to Gregg Levin, president and COO of school research and communications leader K12 Insight (which produces TrustED). For more than 20 years, Levin has been at the forefront of the technology revolution in education. Before joining K12 Insight, Levin was general manager at Fuel Education, a division of K12 Inc., a leading provider of digital curriculum and online education services.

Levin has seen firsthand how technology has helped tackle some of education’s biggest problems. But he also knows that technology alone is not the be-all and end-all for solving the challenges that districts face.

We recently sat down with Levin to ask him how he thinks school districts can thrive in this shifting education landscape. He gave us three key points that school districts must prioritize.

So, what’s next?

1. Districts must ensure system and data interoperability

The days of filing cabinets and paper files are long gone in most schools. Student contact and health information, back-end office systems, curriculum platforms, school safety systems, communications—school districts have an array of digital information and databases they tap into every day.

The challenge now, says Levin, is making sure those systems can easily and seamlessly talk with one another.

“Initially, you had all these systems that lived in isolation, which created a ton of complexities for the districts to manage,” says Levin. “Increasingly, you’re starting to see integration standards emerge.”

Levin says K12 Insight is already working with districts to integrate the company’s always-on listening tool, Let’s Talk!, as well as its Engage survey solution, with current district tools like transportation, background checking, and office management systems.

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2. School systems must meet students where they are by providing more choice in the district

You’ve either seen the headlines or witnessed it first hand—districts across the country are losing students to education alternatives and school choice.

Levin says school districts are finally going on the offensive to provide more choice in their own districts, including more AP courses, career and technical courses, or alternative settings for students who struggle in classrooms. The idea is to provide the academic alternatives usually offered by private or charter schools inside a district’s own classrooms.

Levin says districts also need to give students and parents a bigger voice. That means creating systems that help students and parents communicate with teachers and school leaders 24/7, however and whenever they feel comfortable (e.g., social media). It also means equipping school faculty and staff with the tools to quickly respond to students and their families.

3. School districts must make customer service a core competency

More and more districts are realizing the power of quality customer service to boost community support and stave off student enrollment declines, Levin says.

At a time when nearly every service we interact with—from our Uber rides to our restaurant experiences to our music downloads—is focused on immediate feedback and satisfaction, school districts need to provide students, parents, and staff with the same level of responsiveness.

Levin sees that as a two-fold process. First, schools must implement always-on listening so that parents’ concerns, complaints, and questions are heard and responded to as quickly as possible.

Second, school districts need to have robust systems for gathering specific, structured feedback from their entire community that they can then use to inform strategies and decisions. Surveys are the best way to gather this data, Levin says.

Levin says that soon a district’s ability to provide quality customer service will be as important to parents’ school choices as its academic offerings:

“In addition to the academic accountability that schools are very comfortable with, there will soon be non-academic accountability—something like a net promoter score—that will make it very easy for an incoming parent to know that, ‘Hey, this district gets a nine out of 10 for likelihood to refer from current parents while this other district only gets a six.”

Do you agree with these priorities? 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.