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What’s Next for Education: What’s old is new again

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Peter DeWitt

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Despite new technologies projected to change the education game, many of the challenges facing America’s schools are the same as they were five, 10, even 20 years ago.

Few educators have written and presented about the past, present, and future of K12 schools more than Peter DeWitt.

The veteran teacher, principal, and education writer is an expert in school leadership. These days, he advises schools and state agencies on leadership issues, and his Education Week blog Finding Common Ground is a must-read for education leaders.

In this latest installment of our What’s Next for Education series, DeWitt highlights three challenges schools will face in 2017 and beyond.

So, what’s next?

Great school leadership will be vital to school success

Good school leaders have always been essential to school success.

But with an emphasis on more local control under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), school leaders will face even more responsibility and scrutiny.

While every school leader aspires to be a “great” one, DeWitt says there’s always room for improvement.

The best school principals and superintendents have a clear vision, but aren’t afraid to shift focus when they receive new feedback or data. They’re also clear communicators who know how to engage their communities and, more importantly, to listen.

Great school leaders also understand the important influence they have on learning.

DeWitt says effective school leaders “see the important part they play in the lives of their students, teachers, and staff. In addition, school leaders understand that they can have a positive or negative impact on their school climate.”

And that’s also part of the problem. Too many school leaders have a negative impact on that climate, DeWitt says.

Districts will place more emphasis on school climate

Bullying, violence, inclusivity—these school climate-related issues are all too familiar to most school districts.

With new accountability rules set to take effect under ESSA, the importance of school climate and the demand for new tools and resources to measure it, is through the roof. Under ESSA, for example, states might elect to measure school performance on how safe and welcomed students feel in their classrooms.

“This critical issue is not just about bullying,” says DeWitt, “but about creating an inclusive school climate where all students can achieve their maximum potential.”

Research shows that when classrooms are open and inviting, students tend to do better. And when parents are engaged in their students’ learning, community support soars.

Successful school districts learn to balance the need for student safety with engagement and a sense of community.

Schools will continue to face the stark effects of poverty

More than half of public school students come from low income families, according to recent data.

Urban and rural schools have been dealing with poverty for years.

Poor students often start school at a disadvantage, says DeWitt. “We also know that many children who live in poverty come to kindergarten hearing one-eighth of the language (vocabulary) that their wealthier peers experienced.”

Unfortunately, schools with high poverty often face critical budget and resource deficits.

To overcome the grip of poverty, schools have to innovate and energize their communities. For more about the challenges facing schools, check out Dewitt’s blog post, 10 critical issues facing education.

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.

Check out the other installments of What’s Next for Education. And stay tuned for future installments in the series.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

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