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#SXSWedu: Education Hot Topics

Before the hipsters, geeks and film buffs descend upon Austin for South by Southwest, thousands of educators come together for the lesser-known #SXSWedu, a four-day conference focused specifically on education best practices, policy, technology and social change.
March 30, 2016
Education Hot Topics
Since not everyone can take a week to head down to Austin like I did, I’ve rounded up a few of the most important ed trends and topics that came up this year:

The election and education – and why presidential candidates don’t talk about it

If you’re like me, you may have found yourself thinking throughout this crazy election season, why isn’t education a more important topic for all candidates? While Hillary Clinton seems to have early childhood education as one of her key talking points, the rest of the conversation appears to be lacking.
The reason public education isn’t going to come up in conversation with candidates? Roland Martin said, frankly, because the reality is we love to say education matters, but we don’t actually mean it. And since Republicans ideologically believe that education is a state and local issue, there is no incentive for their presidential candidates to bring it up.

The question remains whether education talk will pick up once the parties select their nominees. We’ll find out soon enough.

Hot Topic: Every Student Succeeds Act (It’s not No Child Left Behind!)

While the general tone across the conference when talking about No Child Left Behind was negative, it seems people are eager to see how the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) may be different as it’s rolled out.
Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia, described ESSA as “an airplane being built in three locations simultaneously – in Washington, in every state capital, and in every district central office.” Not the most reassuring evaluation.
With that said, the general consensus from a panel of experts including Dallas Dance, the superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, is that district-level people are excited about ESSA because the law gives flexibility back at the local level.

Hot Topic: The lack of diversity in teachers

An important topic that SE2 has worked on locally, recruiting and retaining more teachers of color is something that experts across the education world are discussing. (And if it’s not yet on your radar, take this as your hint that it should be.)
While the diversity of our students has grown, the diversity of our teachers unfortunately has not. As Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association highlighted, “we need to see teaching staff that reflects the diversity of our country – and this isn’t just about students of color. All of our students in K-12 school systems need more teachers of color.”

Trend: Getting Gen Z to care about college

Another panel highlighted the work of Michelle Obama in encouraging young people to pursue and complete college. While our First Lady began her work with Reach Higher, an initiative to inspire students to “take charge of their future,” her team quickly realized that they needed a campaign for youth voices. And so Better Make Room was launched.
Better Make Room is allowing students to connect with each other and, using Vine influencers and College Humor partnerships, has already achieved hundreds of millions of social impressions. Their insights for reaching Gen Z?
  • Give youth a space to create (this is as simple as asking them to answer questions!)
  • Inspire them to build their own community
  • Amplify their mindset and give them space to talk about their own path

Tip: Looking to engage youth in your work?

The key takeaway is to be flexible enough with your campaign that students can engage with it in their own way. As Aimee Woodall with the creative firm behind the campaign put it, provide experiences or tools youth can use themselves and get out of the way.

Like this? Check out our other content and coverage of SXSW 2016:

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