A new State of K-12 report released by Instructure pointed to a handful of key themes it says will shape the future of education, among them the increased value of hybrid learning and the need to more closely look at how students are being assessed.

The “State of Teaching & Learning in K-12 Education” study done in March included over 460 parents and 200 teachers and administrators and showed both the adversities school districts faced and the solutions forged when schools were thrust into the crisis. How they come out of it will be determined by their ability to provide paths that ensure students are achieving academically, socially and emotionally, the experts said.

The most important driver of success, according to respondents, was high-quality teaching and the learning relationship students have with instructors, according to the survey responses from educators (99%) and parents (91%).

Student engagement (92%) and attendance ranked near the top, both of which were affected by the pandemic-interrupted year. Student academic achievement came in third, although both administrators and parents rated it a bit lower as a focus for the upcoming year.

The lowest ranked of all priorities was standardized tests, which came in at just 29%. Above that was non-cognitive assessment scores. They both highlight what researchers noted as a Top 3 theme: It’s time for a fundamental shift in assessment.

More than 75% of educators gave formative assessments to students; yet the stresses they caused, particularly during a pandemic, were apparent. Researchers suggest that for students to remain on grade level and not fall behind, the system needs to shift from end-of-term or end-of-year assessments to a more personalized, structured format where interventions can happen frequently to build learning.

More than 95% of educators say they’ve moved to some form of remote learning, and 80% say it will be more important in the future. While the survey showed more of a reluctance from educators to abandon some of their in-person instruction, parents overwhelmingly want it (74%) and believe online learning has been good (65%). Either way, authors say, the technology that schools purchased should continue to be leveraged and advanced.

One key priority that educators and parents have on the radar is equity, especially graduation and drop-out rates, particularly for low-income and minority students. Aside from other barriers facing those students, low-income households, for example, are twice as likely to not have the same access to technology equipment and internet as high-income families. Teachers also report struggles with broadband and internet access.

Technology continues to be a high priority. One of the big success stories was the ability to bring the classroom into the home for parents. Videoconferencing also gave educators a unique window into students in their own spaces. While not perfect, it did offer the potential for learning connections and personalization to occur beyond the school.

Instructure offered several ways leaders can drive student engagement and success in the 2021-22 school year and beyond:

  1. Invest in highly immersive professional development for teachers.
  1. Build on the technology you have to “personalize learning plans, measure student engagement, and recreate core classroom experiences when students are absent.”
  1. Research potential models that allow for teachers to use “shorter, standards-based assessments throughout the year.”
  1. Consider one learning platform that students can use exclusively rather than a cumbersome variety of apps.