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K12 Senior Vice President of Education, Policy, and External Affairs Mary Gifford also contributed to this piece.

No one would dispute the fact that technology is moving at an alarming rate. If you have an iPhone that is more than one model number back it feels obsolete. There is always something new and exciting in the tech world, yet it’s taken the education system writ large a long time to catch up to the consumer world.  Education reformers have long recognized the value of adding technology to teachers’ tool kits and students’ daily course work.

We recently read an article by eSchool News titled 10 education trends for 2018.  The piece highlights several emerging trends in the ever-changing educational landscape that experts believe will significantly transform the educational landscape in the next year.

What was most striking to me was how many of these trends are at the forefront of what K12 Inc. and its partner schools are doing right now.

Take for instance the topic of Strategic Enrollment Management.  This is becoming a major consideration as school choice continues to grow in most states around the nation.  Students in many states are no longer required to attend the district school of assignment, but have the option to select the school that best fits their needs.

For many students, their local, traditional school will be the right option, but many others will need something different.  Providing school choice to students is only the first step and we must not stop there.  It is imperative that families are educated about their choices and the specific missions of the school options that they have available.  Ensuring that students end up in the school best suited to meet their needs is necessary in order to optimize the power of school choice.  And families need full support throughout the enrollment and school transfer process, from start to finish – a service K12 has done with care and quality on behalf of school districts and charter schools for years.

Parents and students must also be supported through onboarding and given ample opportunities to be oriented to their new school of choice.  State policies can support school practices of offering onboarding services.  It’s why K12 has advocated for legislation like Ohio’s HB2 which requires online schools to offer student orientation prior to enrollment.  While completion of an onboarding process should not be a condition of enrollment in a choice school, it is imperative that families fully understand the style and expectations of a given learning model when making the choice.

Another trend the article discusses is fighting chronic absenteeism with student support initiatives.  This is not new, but K12 really saw the need for additional student support about three years ago.  The company invested millions of dollars into the development of our Family Academic Support Team (FAST) program.

The program begins with K12’s Strong Start program that provides support to get students and their families prepared for learning in the new, online or blended environment.  FAST team members then monitor student achievement and attendance and jump in to assist students when they hit a road block, whether academically or even with something else at home.  We realize that a student slipping academically is not a sign of a student who cannot learn, since all children can learn, but that there is usually an outside situation affecting the student’s focus.

It is vital that we not only help students navigate their needs, but we must do it quickly.  In creating our FAST wrap around support team, we have worked with partner schools to hire many new positions to assist our students during the school year and beyond.

Another emerging trend is personalized professional development (PD) for teachers. This, too, is an area where K12 shines, and has for years.  But we’re not resting on our laurels.  Our company continues to heavily invest resources and energy into our teachers because we believe they are our most important asset.  Our Teach360 team houses our personalized PD for schools needing extra support tailor-curated for each school, while instructional coaches have been deployed both virtually and on-site to our partner schools from coast-to-coast.

Each professional development opportunity has been tailored to address the needs of that specific school using extensive student performance data as well as several other indicators ranging from school climate to operational health and leadership.  Our goal is to be the place where newly-graduating education students are eager to get teaching applications submitted to work for a K12-powered school.  Teacher professional development is imperative for student success.

Most recently, K12 announced a partnership with Southern New Hampshire University to offer a new Master’s of Education in Online Teaching. The program offers teachers training modules and micro-credential programs that can stack into a full master’s degree.  The partnership with SNHU will also develop research to identify best practices in online education.  Its impact will lead to better and even higher quality training and professional development opportunities possible for teachers in online learning.

The continued growth and popularity of online schools is a continued trend in 2018.  That’s not just a bold prediction from eSchool News, but a reality.  Not only are more teachers seeking online learning opportunities, but educators are also looking to offer more personalized learning solutions, in large part due to demand from parents and students.  They want increased flexibility, access to college courses and dual-credit offerings; career and technical education programs with pathways in emerging industries, and many more opportunities that online learning can provide.

Indeed, the educational landscape is changing as positive technological advancements continue to disrupt education at breakneck speed.  As the leader in online learning, K12 stands at the forefront of the aforementioned emerging trends. It’s an exciting time to be leading the charge into the future!

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