Back to School Primer: Important K-12 Topics

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School is beginning for many students around the country, and for many of you selling into K-12, this period also marks the official start of your year-long selling cycle.

This is the time to be pushing your first lead-generation campaigns, making initial contact with new prospects, and finalizing your messaging for the 2014-15 school year. And it’s a good moment for us to revisit 10 common phrases and programs that you’ll be hearing and using in the months ahead. Consider this a back-to-school primer:

Common Core State Standards Implementation

Most states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity initially adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). But as the 2014-15 school year starts, CCSS is facing serious challenges. Over the summer, public disapproval of CCSS soared even though most of the public does not actually know what the Common Core is.  States from Ohio to Louisiana are fighting to repeal it and several states have already abandoned it.  We expect CCSS to be the second most discussed K-12 topic this year after student-privacy issues.

Personalized Instruction

The push for individualized instruction continues to gain momentum in U.S. schools as educators seek improved methods and tools to make it a reality in their classrooms. In 2014-15, you’ll see schools and districts accessing long-deferred funding to purchase district-wide technology. While the tech solutions are often high on the wish list for many decision makers, non-technical tools, methods, and curricula are still widely accepted.

Targeted Learner Intervention

Educators continue to refine their capabilities to identify struggling students early and provide targeted intervention quickly. Schools are investing in popular models, such as Response to Intervention (RTI), that provide a structured approach to early identification and intervention.

1:1 or BYOD Mobile Penetration

2013–14 was a banner year for mobile adoptions. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) encountered serious and highly publicized problems after investing a $1 billion in hardware for students, but their bold procurement plan still set a precedent. Thousands of schools are now seeking to expand mobile availability without the fanfare (and mistakes) of LAUSD. Demand for both low-cost hardware and mobile curricula are expected to remain high for the foreseeable future.

Bandwidth Constriction

Mobile adoption and the broader goal of a more digital classroom have put a spotlight on schools’ bandwidth problems. Education Superhighway explains that a typical public school has the same internet access as a typical home (but 100x the number of users); less than 30% of schools currently have enough bandwidth to support digital learning across all of their classrooms. They suffer from moderate to severe bandwidth constriction, and the ongoing rise in web-based services in schools will continue to consume network availability.

Competency-based Learning

While the topic of competency-based learning is still the subject of hot debate, the issue is driving many schools to explore, pilot, and adopt supportive instructional models and technologies.

STEM and ELA Assessment and Instruction

The rollout of CCSS has pushed every school to scrutinize the effectiveness of its math and English language arts curricula. Many states have begun implementing complementary science programs in anticipation of the upcoming science Common Core framework.  Regardless of Common Core’s implementation struggles in most states, STEM and ELA will remain hot areas of instruction.

Early Learning

Early learning has become a field of tremendous growth for schools across the country. For many years, schools viewed early childhood programs as the domain of Head Start and private providers. With the current administration’s focus on early intervention, and the opening of additional funding for early childhood education (ECE) programs, many public schools have expanded their vision of ECE and increased their efforts in this area.

College and Career Readiness

As standards and assessments aim to prepare students for college and careers in the 21st century, schools are focused on instruction that is evidence-based, well-rounded, and rigorous. Math and English language arts are the two primary emphases.

Digital Literacy

The increased adoption of digital products has forced schools to address issues related to digital literacy. While digital literacy for students remains a focus in the public eye, many schools are actually struggling more to improve digital literacy among instructional and administrative staff.

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