Five Predictions for Schools in 2019

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - this is an incredibly exciting time to be in education! There is so much inspiring work happening in our schools around how we support, engage, and prepare our students to lead fulfilling and impactful lives.

While our work in education is exciting, we have to be careful of the swinging pendulum of ideas and initiatives within our schools. For many, this creates a wait and see approach and a feeling that this too shall pass. For others, these swings are the signals they’ve been waiting for their whole careers - finally, we are about to get somewhere new.

As with most things, the sweet spot ultimately will be a balance - not one idea over another, but a recognition that many of these ideas and initiatives can co-exist within our schools. So, with that framing - that these trend predictions are not all or nothing, but rather strong currents in a sea of well-intentioned ideas - here are my predictions for what we will see more of this year.

Immersive Impact

Last year I wrote about local learning and the great programs schools were building such as Lab Atlanta and BlendEd. I think we’re going to see that idea expand with schools creating and offering options for deeply immersive, authentic, applied experiences that have real-world impacts. Similar to outdoor programs that use nature as the backdrop for learning, and service learning programs that challenge students to learn in service of others, schools will focus on building programs that present real-world challenges and experiences as the backdrop to student engagement and skills development. These programs will be deep partnerships with local non-profits, organizations, and businesses that challenge students to solve, learn, and apply new skills. Students at Ethel Walker School, for example, “were trained to prepare taxes for families and individuals making less than $54,000 per year” resulting in refunds that had a real impact on local families. There’s a plethora of challenges and opportunities our students are capable of helping to solve and participate in, which is, after all, what we’re preparing them for.

School Memberships

The Third Education Revolution is “marked by continual training throughout a person’s lifetime” and is an opportunity we will see schools embrace by providing ongoing learning opportunities for people beyond just students. The intention of these new initiatives will be to engage, inspire, and to connect with parents, guardians, and community members.

Another way to look at this movement is a reframing of who schools serve and how they approach that work. With all the choice available to families today parents are looking at institutions that foster not just the learning needs of their children but serve their entire family. Through reading groups, speaker series, reading hours for young children, and potentially classes for parents and guardians, these opportunities will speak to the way this new crop of parents and guardians views life and work - that leveling up, developing and acquiring skills, and connecting with others around common passions is advantageous to their careers and interests.

Designing for Wellness

Years ago schools began to design spaces to foster both collaboration and independent work that broke from the traditional one-size-fits-all classroom model that existed for decades. Thankfully, the conversation today is about reimagining curriculum and pedagogy to rethink some of the inherited traditions that still drive many schools. Space design is as important as ever and like many businesses who are promoting positive health initiatives for their employees, we will see school building projects that are centered around designing for wellness and that allow for reflection, mindfulness, and foster positive mental health. Maker spaces won’t be the first stop on school tours - mindfulness spaces and programs will be.

Competency-Based Professional Learning

Over the past year we have seen an incredible surge in competency based learning at our schools. Now, we’re going to see schools begin a deep examination of educator competencies (and here) and then an alignment of their professional learning that will foster those educator skills and habits of mind. As I wrote in my opening of school letter: “One of the opportunities we are seeing many schools contemplate is the change from being a school to a learning institution. The answer, and this work, does not just address our young people, but the adults in our communities as well. In the years to come schools will need to crystalize the type of learning institution they want to be for everyone in their community.” Schools will need to deliberately build and develop a well-balanced faculty to ensure students are getting a breadth of experiences and developing skills that will serve them beyond their time in our schools.

Shared Services

Today’s economic climate is impacting many of our schools in deep ways, driving conversations about closures, mergers, acquisitions and downsizing. Since many schools aren’t ready for any of these options there are other opportunities to explore, one of which is around shared services. This trend can be seen in two ways - frontend and backend services. Frontend services, which center around curricular and extracurricular programs are more challenging to execute, though there are strong examples of ways to partner to increase impact. GOA is a good example of shared programming where an individual school’s resources are amplified through partnering. On the backend, schools will begin to explore ways to combine business office services, tech infrastructure, and HR. This is one of the reasons for-profit networks are able to have lower tuition than nearby independent schools - each node of the network shares common central services. There’s no need for everyone to replicate everything - finding economies of scale will help to create a stable foundation on which to keep building great programs.

How are these trends on the rise or already being implemented at your school? What trends do you see on the horizon at your school, or within the educational community? Share with us on Twitter @GOALearning or send us an email at

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