What the Data Says About Innovation in American Schools

Innovation is a prevalent buzzword in schools – but what exactly does it mean for education? Do principals and teachers prioritize innovation equally? What drives innovation in schools, and conversely, what hinders it?

What the Data Says

The results of a recent Education Week Research Center survey of nearly 500 K-12 education professionals sheds light on the answers to these and other questions.

(Read the full survey here)

One noteworthy outcome of the research is the disparity in attitudes among administrators, principals, and teachers regarding innovation.

Administrators and principals are more likely to rate innovation as more urgent than classroom teachers are. Roughly two-thirds of school principals and three-quarters of district administrators believe that innovation will be a high or very high priority in the coming year. Only 41 percent of teachers share this view, according to the study.

Some of the survey’s other findings may help to explain this discrepancy.

Different Concerns for Different Roles

Administrators face the highest feeling of external pressure to innovate, with 72 percent citing that they feel this burden. Comparatively, just half of principals or teachers said they feel the same pressure. Furthermore, administrators cite different motivations behind innovation in schools than do principals and teachers. The former group is most likely to attribute the importance of innovation to changes in the economy and necessary employment skills for students.

Principals and teachers, on the other hand, state that they are driven by a goal to increase student achievement.

Other findings of the survey highlight the supports and culture educators believe will help them push innovation forward. The survey found that a majority of educators look for insights regarding innovation from peers and colleagues rather than from other groups like the larger technology community or from advocacy groups.

Likewise, educators report that the top three ways they to inspire innovation in their schools are to by try or encourage colleagues to try new ideas, share new information, and model innovations for colleagues.

Where to go From Here

When asked which supports are most needed to spur innovation, few educators cited better curricular resources or technologies as the answer. More time for educator brainstorming or learning (31 percent) took the top spot on the list for this question, followed by more funding (23 percent) and more or better training (21 percent).

Nearly half of educators surveyed chose new curriculum as the single area they would choose to spend more dollars on if they had more funding for innovation.

the biggest challenge that educators believe stops them from innovating is time pressure, workloads, and day-to-day deadlines. Just over one-third (36 percent) stated that this was their biggest hurdle.

How has your school sparked innovation in the classroom recently?

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