3 Issues K-12 School Districts Need to Address This Year

When it comes to implementing vision statements, every school district faces a unique set of challenges.

“Every district has got their own DNA. Even though you may have the same destination as another school district, your route to getting there may be different,” said Bill Daggett, founder of the International Center for Leadership in Education, during his keynote presentation at Leadership Academy 2018. His speech kicked off the event this past November. 

Setting and achieving a vision statement for a school district, Daggett said, is like using a GPS navigation system. In both scenarios, circumstances may cause you to get re-routed along the way, but that shouldn’t keep you from ultimately reaching your destination. For a school, that destination may be completing your goals for the next five to eight years.

Though the specific circumstances among school districts vary widely, Daggett cited a few issues in particular that it’s important for schools today to address—namely the needs to prepare children to live and work in a constantly evolving digital workforce, address the rise in mental health issues among kids, and teach noncognitive skills that will be valuable to them for life.

1. Preparing Students for a Tech-Driven Workforce

Digital technology is ubiquitous in today’s world. Teachers need to understand that they have a major professional development challenge in front of them: embracing a culture that emphasizes “higher-order technology skills” that students should learn as technology continuously evolves, Daggett said.

As technology gets faster and faster, "It’s going to change how we teach,” said Daggett, noting that when the class of 2018 entered kindergarten, iPhones, Facebook, Snapchat, Alexa, and tablets had not yet been created.

Daggett also pointed to new and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and the latest developments in language translation. Superintendents should consider how regular advancements in technology may affect the creation and execution of their vision statements, Daggett said.

“Do [innovations in language translation] mean the end of world language in GPS statements?” Daggett asked. “I don’t think so. You know what I think it means? Less focus on language development and deeper understanding about cultural issues, which is where we’re having a real problem.”

2. Addressing the Rise in Student Mental Health Cases

Hand in hand with constant advancements in technology is the current rise in mental health issues in K-12 school districts across the U.S. The main problem, Daggett said, is that many schools are reactive—rather than proactive—in addressing the issue.

Pointing to the chart below, Daggett said most schools deal with issues of behavioral health when they reach the right side of the chart, whereas few systemically deal with them at the development and prevention stages.

That needs to change, he said. While today's K-12 students have "tons of relationships," Daggett said, they often fail to establish deep, personal relationships, in part due to technology and social media.

"These kids are experiencing bullying online at an incredible rate," he said. "They’re seeing the dark side of life awfully quickly. It's their world."

As educators, you must think through how to best implement a framework on behavioral health, both at the personal and community levels, Daggett said. He shared the framework below, adding that it’s clearly time for schools to make addressing mental health a priority. 

3. Teaching Students Noncognitive Skills

The World Economic Forum has addressed the question of what skills students need to work in today’s world and has emphasized the importance of social-emotional learning. Daggett said that in the future, noncognitive, or “soft,” skills will become even more important, and basic academic skills will become less relevant (though, of course, not totally irrelevant!) for succeeding in today’s workforce.

To ensure you are future-focused rather than forward-focused, Daggett emphasizes the importance of teaching these 10 skills—and not just in the classroom.

  • Complex problem solving
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • People management
  • Coordinating with others
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Active listening
  • Service orientation
  • Negotiation
  • Cognitive flexibility

“You know who has to teach this? Everybody,” Daggett said. “When? All the time. And it’s not just the teachers—it’s the bus drivers. It’s the support staff at the teachable moment.”

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You can book a keynote with blog contributor and ICLE Founder Dr. Bill Daggett to bring his expertise on systemwide improvement to your school district. You can also view our full list of thought leaders who provide customized presentations on a range of key education issues.

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