Back in January, we knew one thing to be true: It was going to be a critical year for education.
And as we approach the close of 2023, we can see the long-lasting impacts of this crucial post-pandemic transition period.
District leaders are no doubt still grappling with the many systemwide inequities that the pandemic highlighted. But they’re also using learnings from this disruptive period to reevaluate how they allocate resources across schools, use ESSER funds to drive impactful strategies, and support students—especially those with the highest learning needs.
It’s a time of reinvention and revitalization in our school systems—and leaders are stepping up to the challenge. How can district leaders enable transformative change in 2024 that makes a real difference for the most marginalized communities they serve? Our answer is the same as last year—it’s our Do Now, Build Toward approach—which means taking small steps now, grounded in data and research, that address critical needs and build toward an inspiring, bold vision.
Continued news of teacher shortages and turnover across the country in 2023 underscored what we already knew: the way the teaching job is structured is fundamentally broken. Our teacher turnover analysis—which analyzed school-level data to incorporate rates of in-district transfers—that revealed the problem is even worse in high-need schools. But two strategies could be critical to recruiting and retaining teachers now and far into the future: supporting and retaining highly effective principals and designing strategic teacher compensation models. Change is possible, and district leaders are in a unique position to boost the sustainability of the job itself.
See our Top Resources of 2023 on the teaching job:
2023 marked a critical year for district leaders to spend down their ESSER funds in strategic and effective ways before the September 2024 deadline. The severity of this deadline will depend on multiple factors, like which state a district is in, how much money they received, or the distribution of poverty in their district. And the effects will be felt disproportionally in schools that serve students with the highest learning needs. That’s why district and state leaders will need to work together to minimize the effects of the fiscal cliff and put transformative strategies in place for long-term sustainability.
See our Top Resources of 2023 on ESSER:
In recent years, many school districts have established or elevated equity offices to help address enduring, unacceptable race- and income-based disparities in student outcomes and experiences. But many of these initial investments have been focused on raising awareness via anti-bias trainings and more inclusive curricula—important starting points, but not enough. To drive real change in 2024, leaders need to embed equity into their strategic plans to transform organizational practices, policies, and mindsets and enable all students to reach rigorous learning outcomes—no matter their race or income. And equity officers can advance this process by moving into strategic equity leadership roles, in which they use key data to better understand resource allocation in schools, engaging stakeholders in shifting the narrative around equity, and helping everyone make the most impactful policy and practice changes.
See our Top Resources of 2023 on resource equity:
The pandemic was a double-edged sword for school districts: It intensified longstanding patterns of inequity, but it also created new openings for innovative school design that have the potential to mitigate—or even eliminate—those patterns. We've seen school and district leaders strategically invest ESSER funding to meet the unique needs of students and teachers in their districts And we published a number of resources to guide this work, including a scheduling toolkit for elementary school principals and a case study on how Lubbock ISD used scheduling to enable instructional, staffing, and budget priorities. We also released a guidebook for leveraging strategic hybrid learning models in high schools that can help solve staffing challenges and provide students with access to a greater breadth of advanced courses. We even sat down with district leaders in DC Public Schools to see how they’re making key scheduling and strategy shifts to their credit recovery program to ensure all students get back on track to graduate.
See our Top Resources of 2023 on school design: