Superintendents understand the importance of AI but fail to prioritize it

Dive Brief:

  • A significant number of superintendents comprehend the importance of artificial intelligence and its potential impact on K-12 education. However, only a minority of district leaders view AI as a “very urgent” priority this year, as indicated by a recent survey from EAB, an education consulting firm.
  • Recruiting and hiring qualified teachers remain the top priority for superintendents this school year, with 52% rating teacher staffing as “very urgent” and 40% as “mild or moderately urgent,” per the EAB survey.
  • Despite numerous challenges like chronic absenteeism and student discipline, 63% of superintendents plan to continue in their roles for the next two years, representing a 9% increase from the previous year, according to EAB.

Dive Insight:

Approximately 36% of superintendents feel adequately prepared to lead their district’s efforts in addressing AI and its implications for schools, based on EAB’s survey of 148 district leaders from 39 states.

Despite the growing role of AI in education, superintendents are struggling to stay abreast of the technology amid other pressing challenges. Mental health concerns are on the rise, with 76% of district leaders reporting an increased need for student mental healthcare in the past year, says EAB.

EAB’s report affirms that existing challenges like teacher shortages and student mental health issues are so pervasive that considerations related to new technologies like AI are often neglected. Setting up a districtwide AI task force, as suggested by EAB, can help superintendents harness AI’s potential to enhance operational efficiency and achieve strategic goals.

While some states are releasing guidance on AI use in schools, the specific resources and policies regarding AI vary widely. In Tennessee, a proposed bill mandates school districts to create their AI use policies without additional state resources or guidance from the education department.

EAB emphasizes that AI tools present significant opportunities to optimize workforce and time management. The report also highlights ongoing staffing challenges in K-12 schools, with increased employee absenteeism and rising vacancies reported across instructional and non-instructional staff positions.

Various strategies are being explored at the district level to address staffing shortages, such as dedicated roles for school nutrition employees, sign-on bonuses, and grow-your-own programs to recruit teachers. The need for a coherent and comprehensive approach in tackling staffing issues is underscored by researchers.

The findings from the EAB survey were presented at the National Conference on Education conducted by AASA, the School Superintendent Association.

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