Blog U › 
6 Questions On The Overlap Between K-12 and Higher Ed
December 4, 2012 - 9:00pm

I don't know much about K-12 education. Beyond the fact that I have two kids (8th and 10th grade) in our local public middle school and high school, and that I spent 12 years in public primary and secondary schools, my knowledge of the sector is embarrassingly skimpy.

Can you point us to any people, resources, articles, blogs, books, or journals that might help us get our heads around the following questions? Perhaps you want to take a shot at answering yourself.

The following questions will reveal the depth of my ignorance about K-12:

1. Organizational Structure? What does the leadership structure and organization of a "typical" primary or secondary school look like? I know about superintendents and principals, but are there other layers or types of leadership positions beyond these two jobs? How does the division between "the school district" and the local school work?  Or is the structure different for every state, every county?

2. Big Challenges? We have a good understanding about the major challenges we face in higher education. Increasing costs and inadequate access, low completion rates, high student debt, and uneven quality. The cost disease.  Etc. Etc. Are there overlaps with higher ed in the challenges that the K-12 sector faces? Or does K-12 encounter a completely different set of challenges? Where is the overlap in funding models? High stakes testing?  Remedial education?  The role of unions across the two sectors?   Is what keeps leaders in K-12 up at night the same as what keeps us awake in higher ed?

3. Leadership Path?  Who becomes a leader in K-12 education?  What does it mean to be a leader in this sector?  What qualifications, training, and degrees do K-12 leaders possess?  Are the leadership skills that we would recognize as essential for people in higher ed the same for K-12?  Who are the people that are the thought leaders in K-12?  Do they work as teachers, principals, superintendents - or are they outside of the K-12 sector?  Do we have examples of organizational and/or thought leaders that cross both sectors?  Does anyone go back and forth between K-12 and higher ed?

4. Public / Private?  My wife went to a private boarding high school. Since I did not know her at that point in her life, my window into private schools is limited to reunions and her stories.  Can we think of K-12 as one sector, or do people who work in primary and secondary education divide up between the public and the private schools?  My understanding is that proportion of kids that attend private schools is about one-in-ten.  That public school teachers, on average, have more education and better pay than private schools.  Beyond these few facts (if they are indeed correct), not much. Do any of the lenses that we use to analyze higher ed, (public/private or non-profit/for-profit, liberal arts/research based, commuter/residential, etc/etc), apply to K-12?   

5. Technology? Is technology changing K-12 education as rapidly and systematically as we are seeing in the higher ed world?  Has the web, ubiquitous networking, and mobile computing caused as many changes in how K-12 education is designed and delivered as in higher ed? How much online learning is going on at high schools?  How many flipped classrooms?   Are there equivalents to MOOCS within K-12?  I know about Edmodo, are there other platforms and technologies that are huge in K-12?  What LMS has the largest market share? (My local schools use Moodle and Edmodo).  How big is the market for technology products and services in K-12, and how does this market compare with higher ed?  

6. The Right Questions?  I have very little confidence that I'm even asking the right questions. Or that I know enough to understand and evaluate any answers that I might receive.  I don't know the right language to use when talking about K-12.  The culture is a mystery to me.  Or do I know more than I think I know?  Does my higher ed knowledge carry over to K-12, and if so how?  Where is the overlap between K-12 and higher ed, where are the differences?  What do we have in common, and where do we diverge?  What questions should I be asking to understand the overlap across our education sectors?

Is there a K-12 equivalent to InsideHigherEd?


Please review our commenting policy here.


  • Viewed
  • Commented
  • Past:
  • Day
  • Week
  • Month
  • Year
Back to Top