The K-12 education environment has faced a fair share of upheavals over the last several years, and 2016 has proven to be no different. We’re noticing a shift towards student centered learning standards, a focus on personalized teacher professional development, and a realignment of curriculum to address the changing work environment. More details on each trend are included below.

  • Student Centered Learning and Measurement

Many states are redefining the way they define student success upon graduation, and it’s caused a sweltering debate regarding the effectiveness of implemented changes. Regardless of how you feel about the changes (and we won’t debate them here), there has been a shift in focus towards project-based learning and student exhibitions in an attempt to empower students with a choice in how they learn. School systems are trying to design curriculum around “not yet proficient” students while offering appropriate support to nurture those who are meeting or excelling standards. The trend towards student centered learning has grown alongside the growth of personalized learning plans (PLPs) such as Flexible Pathways, which allow the secondary school student to demonstrate his or her knowledge by completing tasks that interest them. Advocates of the approach suggest it enhances the student’s college readiness. Some districts are asking for parental and instructor feedback on the newly implemented and evolving instruction and learning standards.

  • Personalized Teacher Professional Development

For some school districts, the models of teacher professional development have moved away from Administration-dictated approaches to those which allow the instructor to identify their own learning goals and associated training. By playing a larger role in co-designing their own professional development, teachers are often receiving a combination of online learning, workshops with hands-on instruction, and service-based learning.  Micro-credentialing is also gaining in popularity, which provides credits for professional development that count towards licensure and certification during the following decade. It will be important for school districts to monitor the effectiveness of various professional development approaches in order to continually refine and improve the learning process for instructors, based on the changing learning and work environment that students need to be prepared for upon graduation.

  • Curriculum Realignment

We’ve all probably heard about the Common Core debate, and the growing movement against the standards and tests involved with the approach. The “opt-out” rates for common-core tests has been growing over the last couple years, with parents opting to have their children sit the test out, and teachers refusing to administer some or all of the tests. Beyond the individual protests of the approach, one third of the originating states in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) Testing Consortium have decided to opt out of the Common Core aligned testing for various reasons.

School districts are also realigning curriculum to meet the changing workforce needs, with a rising focus on robotics and computer programming. The growing demand for individuals with proper training in technological fields had led educators to believe that learning should begin earlier than post-secondary education. To ensure success, it will be crucial for school districts to ensure that the realignment of curriculum meets the needs of local employers.

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