October 10, 2018 | By Babe Liberman
School districts across the country are tackling the toughest challenges in education, including kindergarten readiness, family engagement, and school redesign. To address these challenges, we need to understand how they are experienced in different settings—from small, rural districts to large, urban districts—and we need to learn from educators and researchers who are working to solve these issues.
To that end, the Digital Promise Research team collaborated with school districts in the League of Innovative Schools (League) to discover precisely which shared challenges these forward-thinking districts are prioritizing in order to surface promising approaches and bring educators and researchers together around pressing problems of practice.
Based on what we learned from challenge sessions, artifact reviews, and in-depth interviews with district leaders, we created the Challenge Map. This interactive tool features 35 specific challenges that are each broadly relevant, well-defined, and distinct from the others. The challenges are organized within nine themes, related to students and classrooms (Student Learning and Instructional Approaches), schools (Professional Learning & Support, School Culture, Climate & Safety, and Family Engagement), and full districts (Assessment, Technology & Network Infrastructure, Systems Change, and Equity).
The Challenge Map is designed for education leaders who are looking for resources to help address common education challenges. For each challenge, you’ll find emerging trends and interesting practices League districts are implementing, as well as links to summaries and research-based tools aligned with the specific challenge.
Find out more about a few of the 35 commonly experienced challenges featured on the map:
Districts are using technology tools in powerful ways to enhance student learning and engagement. But educational technology is not always designed to suit the needs of educators, meaning some educators find it difficult to make best use of available technologies in their teaching practice, or are unsure how to structure and manage a classroom with student devices.
How can districts support teachers in all subject areas to thoughtfully embed technology into learning environments to support students?
On the Challenge Map you’ll find ideas about instructional technology coaching and the intersection of pedagogy and edtech, as well as research on the use of technology to enhance learning.
Districts are striving to set students up for a successful and productive life of learning whether they choose to enroll in college or enter the workforce.
How can districts provide effective opportunities that prepare students for higher education or allow them to authentically experience different professions? How can teachers embed career readiness into their curricula?
On the Challenge Map you’ll find ideas about setting up internship programs and personalizing learning in high school, as well as tools to help educators define, measure, and build skills for college and career success.
Many districts report opportunity gaps that leave underrepresented students behind, from access to Pre-K programs and summer learning opportunities to enrollment in rigorous academic courses. Technology is another opportunity gap area, with some districts struggling to provide equitable access to technology at school and at home to spur deeper learning.
How can districts intentionally work to close these opportunity gaps?
On the Challenge Map you’ll find ideas about removing barriers to entry for rigorous programs and initiatives, as well as resources on addressing gaps in technology access and learning opportunities.
Over the next year, we’ll keep refining and strengthening the Challenge Map, starting by gathering input from those tackling challenges at every level within League school districts, including teachers, principals, and school-level staff, to ensure we’re getting the full perspective on the challenges. After surfacing any missed challenges, we’ll focus our efforts on challenge prioritization and understanding connections between challenges to systematically identify catalysts—the central challenges that have great potential for impact if addressed.
We know that many educators and researchers are already tackling many of these challenges, so we’ll also continue to gather and share existing research and evidence-based resources and approaches aligned with the challenges.
Finally, Digital Promise is committed to tackling a subset of these challenges through League Challenge Collaboratives, which bring multiple districts together with researchers around an identified need in order to develop shared solutions—products, programs, tools, and practices.
Discover how innovative school districts experience and address these shared challenges: explore the Challenge Map today!