I was excited to read Gallup’s national survey of superintendents because I have respect for the people behind the position and am keenly interested in how they are aligned on key issues in K-12 education. Most superintendents are highly educated and have decades of experience in education. Here are some insights from this Gallup report:

Like in higher education, high schools are increasingly playing an active role in ‘workforce development’. A primary goal remains preparing students for higher education: two and four year degrees. Although there is a recognition of alternatives: apprenticeships, boot camps, microcredentials, and training programs. According to the survey, thirty-five percent of school districts are partnering with employers who ‘recruit students directly out of high school into full-time jobs’ and seventy-three percent of school districts are ‘partnering with area businesses or institutions to help promote career and vocational training’.

There is an emphasis on experiential and applied learning, which serves two objectives: students acquire important skills through experiences and sample possible future careers. According to the survey, ninety-one percent of superintendents are in favor of ‘relaxing state and federal education requirements to give high school students more opportunity for internship, apprenticeship or job shadowing opportunities’.

As far as success metrics for school districts, slightly over fifty percent of superintendents strongly agree high school graduates are well prepared for success in college and forty percent agree they are well prepared for success in the workforce. It is interesting to note that many superintendents do not lean either way (agree or disagree). There could be many reasons for this, like the school district’s demographics and access to resources and funding.

What does a superintendent think about their own success? Almost all (ninety-nine percent) of superintendents think the effectiveness of their schools depends on ‘how engaged’ students are with school and ‘how hopeful students are about their future’. While only nine percent and fifty-two percent of them think ‘scores that students receive on standardized tests’ as ‘very important’ and ‘somewhat important’ respectively.

A valuable resource for many of these new trends is a suite of applications based on acquiring skills:

According to the survey, getting students to learn through applying skills (experiences) and building foundational, life, and social skills are extremely important issues (see graphic). Skills Based Approach is an ideal solution; it is a methodology centered on the development of an evolving skill set throughout an education and career by constantly cycling through four stages.

Skills Culture is a growth mindset that might improve ‘how engaged’ students are with school. Most people (students and adults alike) believe they can learn skills if they put in the time and effort. With a Skills Culture, there is a focus on learning through experiences which is much more enriching than taking tests and rote memorization.

Skills Label is a system for tracking the development of skills. Directly referencing skills (and standards) in education projects and activities directly links to skills needed to be successful in higher education and a career – two objectives of K-12 education.

Source: Leadership Perspectives on Public Education The Gallup 2018 Survey of K-12 School District Superintendents