Recruit and Retain: The Future of Education

Education Trends: Change and Continuity

As the second decade of the 21st century draws to a close, there is quite a bit going on in education. Some is very promising – it creates the hope that teachers entering the field today will have it a little better than those who entered a decade ago.

The Transition to ESSA

The nation is transitioning from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to those of the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA). The change has been welcomed by educational organizations that lamented policies that emphasized narrowly defined skills, caused schools to focus on short-term goals over long-term ones, took away from instructional time, and focused disproportionate resources on students who hovered near an arbitrary line. The goal was to help schools with disadvantaged populations; the reality was stigma and fear.

There is new recognition that the growth individual students make over time is more important than the progress schools make in seeing greater percentages of their students score above that arbitrary line, new recognition that a single assessment of reading and math can’t determine whether schools are failing.

In 2017, states submitted drafts of their ESSA plans to the national government. Teachers can expect assessment to look different from one jurisdiction to another, but some of the pressure is off.

New Teacher Mentoring and Evaluation

There is continued focus on assessment and on developing assessments that are authentic as well as reliable. Among those who are seeing different assessments are the teachers themselves. Teachers are no strangers to evaluation, and student teaching has long been part of the process. Now, though, many prospective and would-be teachers are collecting artifacts and selecting video footage for review by well-trained evaluators who may live states away. There can be challenges in learning new technologies – and seeing oneself on camera – but many believe that the process improves their teaching.

The emphasis on more structured evaluation processes can continue into the early teaching years. Thankfully, it is often tied to mentoring and support. In a time of teacher shortages, jurisdictions are thinking hard about how to give teachers a more positive transition to the professional world – and to keep them on the job past those critical first years.

It’s easier to pass the edTPA or the PPAT (entry-level assessments) than it is to achieve National Board certification. Still, there are similarities in the process. Both can be seen as part of a trend toward creating and recognizing professionalism.

Student Learning Standards

Educational standards – a common set of expectations for what children can do at different grade levels – have been part of schooling for quite a few administrations. Chances are they are here to stay. What remains to be seen is what form they’ll take. Until 2010, states had their own standards. Most states adopted the Common Core, a set of nationally developed standards, soon after its inception. They didn’t all adopt the Core not solely on its own merits. There were some incentives. The changes have created controversies among multiple groups. A few states have altered course and opted out of the Common Core.

Most states have also adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, a rigorous set of standards which aim to get kids thinking more like scientists. Will they be universally embraced? Chances are, no.

Even as enforced conformity comes under scrutiny, the educational world is seeing greater inter-cooperation between districts.

The Influence of Neurobiology: Supporting Trauma and Healing Learning Disability

Neurobiology has come to school! The growing body of research about how brains work is informing our knowledge of everything from learning disabilities to how the brain responds to trauma. It even gives insight into why students from low income/ disadvantaged can be “wired” neurologically in ways that make school difficult. At the same time, neuroscience is teaching us about the power of intervention; brains can be quite resilient.

Among the promising movements: making schools trauma-sensitive. Trauma-informed is a word often used in healthcare communities. Some use the term trauma-sensitive in school settings where the primary focus isn’t counseling but where it’s recognized that trauma affects behavior and learning.

One promising trend is wrap-around services provided through schools: helping students get what they need to be physically and mentally healthy. These supports are not new, but they’re on the rise. The City Connects program has been so successful that it has spread far beyond its Boston roots.

Technological Advancements

Technology continues to create educational opportunity. On the one hand, technology can alter children’s brains, making them crave a faster pace. It’s important to note that this isn’t new; fingers were pointed at Sesame Street long ago. Today’s technology, though, can better reach the marginalized. Children with severe cognitive impairments or physical disabilities are manipulating -- and learning about -- their world thanks to new technologies, some of which can be operated without so much as a finger swipe.

Technologies are also useful for students who, though not severely impaired, are not on level. They can create opportunities for curricular individualization that don't take a lot of work from a classroom management standpoint. Some children, including those with autism and attention deficits, are highly motivated by technology.

Some children are now attending public school via distance technologies -- and some teachers are opting to become online teachers. Even kids who attend traditional schools may take some classes through distance technology. Some states have used it to increase availability of AP courses.

Still a Respected Profession

Teachers are respected more than people think they are. Polls show that Americans consistently give higher ratings to their schools than they do to the nation’s schools as a whole. Yes, you’ll hear that America’s schools are failing, but people tend to hold the ones in their neighborhoods in high regard. This is not new – year after year, Americans give their local schools more favorable marks -- but it’s something that can be easy to overlook.