EAB's Independent School Executive Forum recently surveyed over 80 heads of school to capture the innovations, lessons learned, and opportunities identified by schools during the pandemic and how leaders plan to navigate COVID-19 recovery.
The survey was open from January 26 until March 11, 2021, and yielded responses from 83 heads of school, 19 of whom were from non-EAB-partner schools. Survey respondents were geographically diverse, representing 26 states and the District of Columbia.
Specifically, our aim was to collect data on the following:
- What types of virtual innovations are offered to students, parents, faculty, administrators, and prospects during the pandemic and which will continue into the 2021-22 school year
- In which areas have independent schools begun to rethink their approach to different aspects of how they teach and operate during the pandemic (i.e. become “unstuck” in their thinking)
- What are the new opportunities, services, and innovations that could be implemented post-vaccine
- Where would additional support from EAB be helpful
The full survey results reveal independent school leaders’ current thinking about technology innovation, virtual learning, and remote work. But there are also two areas we identified where independent schools require additional support. Below are two key opportunities for growth independent schools should focus on going forward.
1. Strategic planning
While strategic planning is a standard process for most independent schools, it still remains the top area where survey respondents wish to receive extra support from EAB.
Out of the 60 heads of school that responded to this question, 40% cited strategic thinking or planning as an area where they require help (the most-frequently cited among all topics). In fact, open-ended survey responses indicate that the pandemic has resulted in heads facing new pain points in this area, including feeling more stretched for time for strategic thinking, feeling overwhelmed by managing day-to-day logistics and safety, and not knowing where to begin when it comes to planning ahead at such an uncertain time.
Join a strategic planning workshop
Beginning this spring, we are offering a series of workshops to teach schools to make their strategic planning work more ambitious, agile, and market-informed.
- We recommend that heads of school sign up here to register for the first workshop, which is being offered April 14, 15, and 16.
- Look for additional workshops throughout the spring and summer.
2. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice
Although schools have said diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) work has been a major focus over the past year, only two out of 71 schools cited DEIJ work as an area where they have rethought their approach during the pandemic.
While DEIJ has come up repeatedly in conversations with heads of school, the survey data indicate that this work is still not front and center. One of the reasons for this may be that only half of public statements on racial justice from K-12 institutions commit to any specific short- or long-term actions to advance their commitment to DEIJ; yet, putting accountability measures in place is a key element of success, as is described by an expert insight piece published by EAB this past winter.
of schools indicated DEIJ was an area of focus where they rethought their approach during the COVID-19 pandemic
Recommendations to promote DEIJ on campus
Schools should take the following steps to integrate DEIJ into their day-to-day operations and planning:
DEIJ work cannot continue to be siloed in schools as the work of just a DEIJ director or separate committee. To ensure that this work lives beyond any one individual, work through each of the components of EAB’s K-12 Equity Self-Assessment and Implementation Guide. This resource is designed to help independent schools audit current policies and practices, and includes 11 programing areas to review such as engaging prospective families, promoting equitable college programming, and mental health.
Register and attend the upcoming webinar, Hallmarks of an Anti-Racist Institution, on April 29 to reimagine your systems, policies, and culture to address the larger impact of racism in our society and culture.
3 more takeaways from our survey of independent schools
Discover the rest of our findings from our survey of 80+ heads of school, who shared their lessons learned and future plans on technology innovation, virtual experiences, and remote work.