Last year, our leadership team sat down to reflect on what we’ve seen across the education and philanthropic landscape, in addition to what we’re learning from our peer funders and grantee partners. This year, aligned with our dedication to modeling transparency for the field, we first assessed the accuracy of our predictions for last year, and then built on that analysis with our predictions for 2024.

You can see our full 2023 list of predictions here, which we’ve summarized below to reflect how we fared.

After the review of our 2023 predictions, our leadership team worked together to renew our predictions for the education sector in 2024. This collaborative analysis not only helps us more deeply understand the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for our grantees and their beneficiaries but also informs our grantmaking strategy in the year ahead.

Below is our list of 2024 predictions:

1. Fewer children will be attending public schools due to decreased enrollment and further increases in chronic absenteeism rates. Carly Roberts, Associate Program Director, Out-of-School Learning

Last year we predicted public school enrollment would continue to decline, resulting in potential school closures and decreased funding. We know from data that K-12 enrollment has declined in the U.S., particularly in urban and high-poverty areas, and there are signs of impending school closures. Families continue to seek public alternatives to traditional district public schools, with surges in homeschooling in addition to private school and public charter school enrollment.

We predicted that these trends would cause districts to make more cost-effective decisions, but whether this occurred is less clear. This year, we’re hopeful that a focus on “what works” does emerge as a positive consequence of lower enrollment numbers, but in the meantime predict further attrition and higher chronic absenteeism in 2024. As a Foundation, we’re prioritizing addressing decreased attendance through both direct impact and ecosystem grants targeted toward educators and families.

2. The primary narrative about teacher staffing will shift from shortages to pending layoffs by the end of 2024. Anu Malipatil, Vice President

Last year, we noted that schools will have access to large sums of money but will fail to access and spend it before the ESSER funding cliff. Reporting does suggest this is partially true, and that money will be left on the table.

But, we’re also seeing growing evidence that much of the money that had been used was spent on staff, which means that, when the funding runs out, many of the new employees brought in will have to be let go. This is particularly resonant at a time of declining enrollment, as mentioned in Prediction One. Our team doesn’t believe it’s likely that layoffs would affect specialized staff, such as upper-grade math and science teachers, but we predict they will affect mental health aides and other vital support staff that have helped students readjust to school after COVID-19 shutdowns.

3. Local efforts to engage families around attendance and absenteeism will lead to pockets of higher attendance, demonstrating the impact of high-quality family engagement. Lina Eroh, Senior Communications Director

Last year we predicted family engagement would be a critical element in addressing learning loss, and we did see several examples from the field that suggest engaging families can have a protective, and sometimes even positive, effect on students. Notably, research from Learning Heroes and TNTP found schools with higher pre-pandemic family engagement scores experienced a 39 percent smaller increase in chronic absenteeism and a 25 percent lower decline in student attendance than schools with minimal family engagement practices.

This year, we’re predicting additional bright spots in this area, specifically around attendance. We believe the best way to improve attendance is on a local level and will keep our eye out for districts and schools that aim to use caregiver education and awareness building to decrease chronic absenteeism.

4. After several years of disappointing test scores, academic performance will begin to rebound. —Lucy Brainard, Director, Portfolio Success & Operations

Recent test results show just how much students fell behind during the pandemic, with national achievement data suggesting the average student will need over four additional months of school to catch up in reading and math. But bright spots are emerging. For example, 2022 PISA results reveal science and reading scores in the U.S. held steady since 2018, and localized data suggest that districts that offer access to high-impact tutoring programs, science of reading-based literacy instruction, and high-quality Pre-K can exceed the national trend.

We predict continued increases in districts and schools that use evidence-based interventions to support students’ academic recovery. Specifically, and similar to last year, we believe high-impact tutoring, when coupled with technology, will be more cost effective at accelerating learning for students across the country, leading to pockets of higher math and literacy performance.

5. More states will formally adopt curricula and policies aligned with the science of reading. Anu Malipatil, Vice President

We’ve already seen more than 30 states and the District of Columbia pass science of reading mandates, with New York City, the largest public school system in the country, requiring all educators to be retrained in the science of reading and implementing new curricula starting in SY 2023-24. While this initial transition will not be easy, we predict that a growing focus and requirement on how to teach reading will not only improve educators’ experience with literacy instruction, but will also increase student test scores in the long term. (We’ve seen emerging evidence of this in select states with policies already in place.)

If states with policies that promote the science of reading do experience higher academic achievement and test scores in the coming years, it could be the beginning of a movement for more evidence-based decision-making across the education system, which would prioritize impact on student achievement versus status quo solutions.

Courtesy of FluentSeeds

6. Concerns about the downsides of grade inflation will become even more mainstream. Jon Sotsky, Strategic Impact & Learning Director

Last year we predicted education would start to fall from the “front page” of the news cycle. We were happy to be proven incorrect through the high amount of news coverage tied to NAEP, NWEA, and PISA scores, as well as the science of reading.

Over the past year, we’ve also seen new research reflecting rising grade inflation that’s been accelerated by the pandemic. Grade inflation likely contributes to the disconnect between parents’ perceptions and the actual performance of their children, as well as the diminished value of high school grades for predicting college success. We predict the conversation about grade inflation will play out more prominently in national media in 2024, forcing schools and districts to reevaluate their grading policies and the potential downsides to more lenient standards. A greater focus on grades and how attendance factors into grading may also serve to boost efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism.

7. Artificial intelligence (AI) will become more integrated into edtech products, but the efficacy of AI interventions will remain difficult to confirm.Melanie Dukes, Associate Program Director, K-9 Education

We predicted that the use of technology and AI in schools would grow and that growth would enhance the educator and student experience. It’s clear that the former came true, with nearly four in 10 teachers saying they expect to use AI in their classrooms by the end of SY 2023-24, but it’s unclear how much the addition of AI has improved education.

In 2024, we predict continued growth and expansion, but unfortunately are still not seeing enough of a focus on building evidence for these tools to ensure they’re promoting positive student outcomes and adding to the student experience, rather than supplanting learning. We plan to make several grants this year that push organizations that use AI to better understand its impact, and hope our partners in philanthropy join us in doing the same.

8. New nonprofits will continue to struggle to keep up and compete with for-profit organizations in hiring tech talent. Elaine Perez, Director of People and Operations

In 2023 we were optimistic that, given the layoffs in some prominent tech companies, talent would migrate to the nonprofit sector, ready to make a difference. So far, we’ve seen no evidence that nonprofits are onboarding more tech talent and instead, have heard from our grantees how costly this kind of talent is to hire and retain.

Unfortunately, we predict that this trend will continue for 2024, making it increasingly difficult for tech-based education nonprofits, especially startups, to compete with for-profit organizations in developing cutting-edge technology and integrating AI into existing products.

9. National trends, including the escalating need for childcare, increased enrollment of multilingual students, and growing demand for afterschool options, will exacerbate the shortage of early childcare providers, ESL teachers, and out-of-school time educators. Elaine Perez, Director of People and Operations

We had been optimistic at the beginning of 2023 that innovation on human capital models would ease some of the workforce challenges experienced by educational nonprofits and schools. We unfortunately didn’t see much improvement in this space, partially because unemployment remains low, leading all sectors of the economy to experience hiring and retention challenges. We also didn’t see significant evidence that the healthcare sector could play a greater role in supporting children to succeed academically, though some grantees such as EdNavigator and Pediatrics Supporting Parents have found ways to use pediatricians to engage families in their children’s learning.

Unfortunately, we expect staffing to continue to pose challenges in 2024, especially for specialized educators such as early childhood providers, ESL teachers, and afterschool or summertime educators. These positions, which are often lower paid than others in the sector, will face increasing shortages and more challenging conditions driven by decreased federal funding at the same time as demand rises. While AI can potentially help automate some time-consuming tasks, requiring fewer adults to handle administrative logistics, it’s still likely that we’ll see substantial attrition for the education professions that are crucial to helping students succeed.

10. The 2024 election will be heavy on education wedge issues and light on education policy. Jon Sotsky, Strategic Impact & Learning Director

Presidential platforms and debates will primarily invoke education through polarizing issues that focus on the role of parents and what is taught in classrooms. Absent will be serious policy debates or proposals concerning declining academic performance and the future of education reform in the U.S. Ultimately, we predict education will trail far behind other issues voters say matter most in federal elections while playing a meaningful role in shaping voter preferences in city and state elections.

Looking ahead

As a learning-focused organization, we’re eager to see how the education landscape continues to evolve in the year ahead, and optimistic about the role that the philanthropic sector and our grantees can play in enhancing learning both inside and outside the classroom. Throughout the year, we’ll monitor progress against our predictions to understand the short- and long-term implications for our work and the field at large, and will revise our investments based on what we see as growing needs.

To stay up to date on the latest developments in our thinking and grantmaking, we invite you to follow Overdeck Family Foundation’s blog, newsletter, and LinkedIn. As always, we’ll share updates on the trends we’re seeing and what our team has learned.


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