5 Major K-12 Education Predictions for 2023
I don’t know about you, but I definitely feel a shift in how we live in this world. Day-to-day life feels a bit slower. Receiving Amazon deliveries the next day seems the norm, and whether or not your favorite restaurant will be closed due to staffing or delivery limitations is increasingly common. It’s not rare for apps on your phone to be buggy with the latest release, or for the remodeling of your home to take twice as long or cost twice as much as it did pre-pandemic. As I write this, there’s daily news about the fallout from the failures of FTX in the crypto markets, and the war in Ukraine has continued for almost a year.
Before we take a look into 2023, let’s reflect on my 2022 predictions. In 2022, I anticipated the following trends:
Engagement over assessment
So much attention was given to engagement, including SEL and family engagement, and this data has become a battleground for politics. How you asked questions, what questions you asked, and what choices were available were debated by individuals in communities with differing values. These questions and answers are seen as strategies to indoctrinate certain values. I don’t see this changing in the near future, especially in preparation for the 2024 elections.
Customization over standardization
We definitely didn’t see more standardization, but we also didn’t see as much customization as I would have expected. The debates about curriculum or instructional programming continue to be lively and are stagnating any efforts for customization. Instead, the debates are stifling innovation due to the emotions associated with certain types of content being connected with political agendas. When did phonics become a political issue?
Outsourcing of more core functions over in-house
This didn’t really happen. While school systems saw short-term workforce needs in all areas, the downturn of the economy has influenced decisions about changing jobs, work ethics, and retirement. The press tried to make trends like Quiet Quitting into a trend but the reality is people were tired and performance-managed out of their roles. Districts have a lot of loyalty to and assume a great deal of responsibility to the community as one of its largest employers. Greater effort than I anticipated was put into employing and training people in their local communities.
Homeschooling & microschooling over traditional education options
These will continue to grow as families get more engaged in their student’s education. So many influential people have been talking about the eye-opening experience of looking into their child’s education. From Brené Brown to Melissa Urban, inventor of the Whole 30, we heard discussions about their heightened engagement in their children’s education. Tyton Partners recently estimates a 9% decline in enrollment in public schools and roughly 15 million students participating in some multi-site schooling model.
More pressure to allow funding to follow students over seat-time or attendance zones
Since 2017, when 15 states had voucher programs, that number has expanded to 33 states. Recent tax law changes to 529 Plans enable traditional college savings plans to now be used for K-12 education, which will continue to direct higher-income families out of public education.
2023 presents us with a set of macroeconomic conditions that many recent generations have not experienced. While districts will continue to have large amounts of ESSER funding available through 2024, climbing interest rates, an economic recession, and steady inflation are all negative economic indicators that will put stress on school budgets. This will be particularly acute in urban districts where they will continue to experience drops in enrollment due to the disbursement of the population out of urban and some suburban cities based on data from the Brookings Institute. Finally, educators who left the classroom for ed tech companies during the pandemic are starting to see that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. The reality is many ed tech companies over-promised and can’t maintain the growth they saw during the height of the pandemic. Ed Tech companies saw similar spikes during the 2009/10 stimulus act, and those growth spikes were short-lived, and in some cases created whiplash effects. With all these factors in play, 2023 will bring greater attention to fiscal responsibility, trust in expertise, and heavier influence of local politics in schools.
For 2023, here are my five predictions for K-12 education:
1. Career and vocational education reboot
During soft economic times, career tech and vocational training are typically popular, but we know that programs need to be modernized. While there are obvious areas like coding and autonomous vehicles, I expect new programs like online identity background checkers, e-sports cheat code umpires, and blockchain compliance officers to be regulated areas that require vocational training.
2. Going into the 2024 election year, local politics will continue to be trench warfare
Not only will local politics be more polarized, but both sides will expect superintendents and board members to take extreme positions. Moderates or individuals attempting to reach out to the other side will continue to be under fire.
3. AI technologies will continue to get traction in education
Even though it’s far from perfect right now, AI is providing consistency for students who need regular engagement and minimizes some of the risks associated with personnel. As a society, we are becoming used to AI providing us support in everyday life. Over the holidays, most of the online support for returns and other issues will be supported by AI. Some students prefer working with AI, as AI has substantially less bias or judgment.
4. More focus on evidence-based budgeting
The combination of the number of funds being spent through ESSER, the challenges districts face in determining which programs are effective, and economic belt-tightening will lead to a greater focus on evidence-based budgeting. Districts will leverage solutions like Learn Platform and EdTech Evidence Exchange to examine evidence of effectiveness and will also rely more heavily on trusted advisors.
5. Support from people with expertise (not experts) will be critical to the successful implementation of programs
The operational conditions for organizations have become more complicated and less reliable, and during these times fluency in handling problems and relationships with supply chain partners matters. Organizations with expertise not only think about the problems deeply but also have experience implementing programs in all sorts of conditions. The best products and programs are going to need expertise to ensure they are implemented with fidelity for maximum impact.
I suspect there will be a great deal of innovation in 2023, but we just won’t know about it as early. Innovators will be working more quietly to make sure their offerings are sustainable in tighter economic conditions. It’s times like these when resources are tighter and markets are more volatile that disruptive innovations that make it are sustained. When these innovations are stable during tougher economic times, they tend to experience rapid growth when the economy becomes more favorable.
Listen to Anthony share more about his predictions on EdTech Insiders Year in Review episode (starting at 59:24).
About Anthony Kim
Anthony Kim is a Corwin Press bestselling author, with publications including The New Team Habits, The New School Rules, and The Personalized Learning Playbook. His writing ranges the topics of the future of work, leadership and team motivation, improving the way we work, and innovation in systems-based approaches to organizations and school design. Anthony believes that how we work is the key determinant to the success of any organization. He is a nationally recognized speaker on learning and his work has been referenced by the Christensen Institute, iNACOL, EdSurge, CompetencyWorks, Education Week, District Administration, and numerous research reports. In addition to his writing, Anthony is the founder and Chief Learning Officer of Education Elements, a trusted partner and consultant to over 1,000 schools nationwide. Anthony has been the founder of several companies across multiple industries, including online education, ecommerce, and concerts and events.