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Outlook 2016: Education trends for the new year

An in-depth look at leadership, smart classrooms, assessments & standards and technology
Education leaders and experts look ahead to 2016 and beyond in DA's special outlook edition.
Education leaders and experts look ahead to 2016 and beyond in DA's special outlook edition.

District Administration presents its second consecutive Year Ahead edition to help K12 educators navigate the new year. This special section offers in-depth stories focused on the future of leadership, smart classrooms, assessments and standards, and technology and IT.

You’ll also find trend forecasts by school leaders and results from our reader surveys on curriculum, outsourcing, technology trends and facilities.

Experts and readers say the coming deluge of mobile devices and the repercussions of the Common Core standards (as it did last year) will dominate the landscape in 2016. Readers don’t foresee the presidential race having as big an impact: 59 percent of respondents to our survey said the election will not bring major changes in education.

Still, 29 percent expect public education to improve more under a Democratic president while 12 percent thought schools would make more progress under a Republican.

Administrators will continue to prioritize student achievement as they work to meet new learning standards and adopt new testing strategies such as performance-based assessments. Teachers and parents, meanwhile, will push for more sensible testing. The problem is not that tests are used, experts say, but that there are too many, they aren’t aligned with instruction and they lack useful feedback.

Meanwhile, more districts this year will stress social and emotional skills of students, as educators try to teach “the whole child,” says David Thompson, director of student services for Buncombe County School in North Carolina. And PD will morph to include teacher choice, blended approaches and personalization, according to Leighangela Brady, assistant superintendent for educational services at Encinitas USD.

But classrooms will also get smarter. Schools will open new lab spaces where students can develop inventions, build robots and use 3D printers to create objects. Adaptive learning and augmented reality also will spread in 2016.

For example, a student could learn much more about the Mona Lisa painting using augmented reality by using their smartphone camera and using an AR program to overlay visuals, such as seeing the painting of the masterpiece step by step.

Leaders will continue to add significant new programs in all subjects, at all levels. In elementary schools, reading, math, music and arts will get plenty of fresh attention. Middle school will emphasize science while high school students will see enhanced college and career readiness, and health and wellness programs.

And while mobile devices reign supreme when it comes to technology (55 percent of our survey respondents say tablets and other portable devices will grow significantly), many schools will work to expand Wi-Fi infrastructure. But a concern is the growing shortage of qualified teachers and principals. However, 43 percent want to improve their faculty’s instructional practices.

We hope you find the insights in this section valuable. Please click through to these stories on our website, where you can share them with colleagues and provide your own feedback.

Check back with DistrictAdministration.com in the coming days for the outlook on technology, instruction, administration and assessments. To add your own thoughts, comment below or start your own education conversation on DA's Facebook page