Student Engagement Concerns Among District Leaders Highlight the Need to Re-Evaluate the Learning Experience

Sept 18, 2023
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In a recent Edmentum Educator Pulse Survey, district leaders from across the country shared that student engagement (or lack thereof) is the most pressing challenge as the school year begins. In fact, more than half of leaders report that these are new challenges since the pandemic that have only continued to get worse.

Student engagement can take shape in a number of ways – including behavioral, cognitive and emotional – which can manifest in socialization, classroom behavior, interest and participation. With more than one-third of education leaders reporting slow adaptation to the classroom environment post-COVID, it’s a significant concern that underscores the need to re-evaluate the current learning experience especially considering that the student-teacher relationship is directly tied to student engagement and outcomes. While the pandemic certainly disrupted learning, it also exacerbated long-standing inequities and challenges in our current education system.

Key Findings:
  • Half of district leaders report student engagement (47%) and socialization (50%) as top concerns heading into this school year
  • More than half of respondents also indicated that these issues are new since the pandemic, and have gotten worse
  • One-quarter of educators express challenges with learning loss (22%) and 58% of those attribute lack of student engagement as the reason
  • District leaders plan to provide additional classroom support (57%) and education technology tools (55%) to address learning loss
  • One-third of education leaders (31%) report personalized intervention challenges, with half indicating the issue is tied to personalizing individual student needs (53%) or identifying students in need of intervention (50%)
  • One-third of educators (34%) express challenges with career-connected learning which they also attribute to student engagement (58%) and student interest (56%)

While student engagement and its impact on learning loss came through as the top challenge heading into the school year among district leaders, there were distinct differences based on size and type of school, with larger, public schools feeling the effects of poor socialization more than private or small, rural schools. Larger public schools also are more likely to serve a more diverse population of students including those who may be economically disadvantaged.

Differences by School Type
  • Public schools and those in larger districts (2,500+ students) are significantly more likely to prioritize addressing student engagement, due to concerns around poor socialization and slow adaptation to the classroom environment.
  • Public schools (33%) are more likely than private schools (21%) to report a lack of student engagement.
  • Smaller schools (<2,500 students) are significantly more likely to have improved student engagement (16%)

Learning Loss Attributed to Lack of Student Engagement

District leaders have directly attributed the lack of student engagement – including students not studying at home – to learning loss.

At the same time though, mental health and wellness are key priorities in many school districts further demonstrating the need to focus on the variety of issues that can impact student engagement. When students can’t function in a classroom environment due to outside variables such as their home environment, anxiety or other issues, they aren’t able to learn effectively.

In addition to learning loss, district leaders also express student engagement – along with lack of student interest – as a barrier to career-connected learning. While not as pressing an issue as student socialization or learning loss (based on survey results), one-third of district leaders still reported that the lack of career technical learning heading into this school year posed a challenge for them.

Personalized Intervention Needed to Support Students

Educators can help address these challenges by offering a variety of learning solutions – including in-person, hybrid and remote – that best meet the individual needs of their students. Given the multitude of factors in student engagement – including behavioral, cognitive and emotional – a hybrid approach that includes personalized intervention and relationship building can lead to improved outcomes.

In fact, according to The Search Institute research on developmental relationships, students who have stronger relationships with their teachers are more likely to:

  • Have higher grades
  • Feel more connected to school
  • Feel included and respected

Educators believe personalized and evidence-based intervention resources are needed to mitigate learning loss, and plan to address those by providing additional classroom support as well as integrating learning technology solutions. Education technology is intended to support educators by supplementing the in-classroom experience, providing additional resources where teachers need it most.

While more than half of district leaders indicated plans to provide additional classroom supports and education technology tools to address learning loss, how schools address those barriers varies by school size and type across the country.

  • Public schools are more likely to plan on expanding out-of-classroom support (36%) and one-on-one instruction (32%) than private schools (24%, 21%).
  • Public schools (45%) are significantly more likely than private schools (31%) to increase their budgets for expanded learning opportunities.
  • Smaller districts (<2,500 students) are significantly more likely than larger districts to provide evidence-based interventions (33%).

As with any intervention, it’s critical that learning solutions address skills gaps while continuing to move students forward, ensuring they are at grade level. The right high-quality virtual learning solution can provide personalized intervention and acceleration for each student, allowing educators to measure student progress, assess grade-level readiness and determine where more involvement is needed. This enables teachers to devote more attention to building productive relationships with students and ensuring they are engaged in a variety of different ways.

Helping students thrive is at the heart of what Edmentum does, offering effective, proven learning technology to help educators meet the needs of their students. Our intervention solutions are delivered digitally and flexibly woven into existing school curricula to meet each district’s needs – ranging from intervention and skill remediation to credit recovery and tutoring – all developed to increase grade-level proficiency.

Learn more about how Edmentum can help your district with personalized intervention solutions.

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