2021 Back-to-School Trends: Where Does Your District Fit In?

September 09, 2021
2021 Back-to-School Trends

COVID-19 was truly a learning experience for school districts, parents and students alike. The pandemic shined a spotlight on inequities in education, forced schools to design backup plans in a crunch, and uncovered areas for improvement in technology standards and implementation.

But out of the chaos and confusion, bright spots have emerged. What were problems a year ago have now become catalysts for sparking innovative changes in education. The traditional classroom model has been reimagined to better fit each student’s learning, and technology requirements have been refined to provide every child the tools they need.

The lessons learned in 2021 have shaped this year’s back-to-school trends, and by understanding how each impacts your district, you can better plan for the school year ahead:

The establishment of best practices

The U.S. Department of Education’s “Return to School Roadmap” highlights three priorities for school districts to focus on in 2021/2022, including prioritizing the health and safety of students, supporting their social, emotional and mental health, and accelerating academic achievement. As part of this initiative, the Department has released additional financial support and tools to help students recover from lost instructional time. Educators can access the Safer Schools and Campuses Best Practices Clearinghouse for resources and case studies from districts across the country.

The rise in online education

To the surprise of educators and parents alike, many students thrived in a virtual environment where they could work independently and at their own pace. From creative children stifled by the structure of a traditional classroom to students with ADHD and other learning issues who were no longer burdened by distractions, online learning helped their academic scores soar.

Today, school districts across the country are offering students fully virtual learning options with dedicated virtual teachers, easing stress on students and educators alike. For instance, many districts are using federal COVID-19 relief money to provide online schooling to middle and high school students. In Florida, Miami-Dade Online will focus on independent learning while Miami-Dade Virtual Academy connects students online with a live teacher during the school day. According to researchers, five million students will learn from home this year compared to 2.5 million just two years ago.

A streamlined approach to digital learning

When COVID-19 hit, school districts went into crisis mode, implementing any digital learning options they could in the shortest time possible to connect students and teachers. In fact, 72 percent of districts invested the majority of their Secondary Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) in technology.

Now, districts have the experience and history from the past year and half, understanding what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to selecting digital learning for their districts. And administrators are better equipped with actionable knowledge to help them interpret and evaluate how an edtech solution could increase engagement with students, parents, and teachers unique to their district. By understanding how these variables influence and impact one another in their district, administrators will be able to identify solutions that connect with their culture, IT infrastructure, and professional development goals while adhering to their budgets.


As districts continue to compare their digital curriculum options, it’s crucial to have a unified front to ensure the solution you choose elevates classroom learning and delivers the best outcomes for students. By understanding your school’s culture, tailoring solutions to your students’ needs, doing your due diligence when vetting your options, and providing extensive training for teachers, you no longer have to hope your new solution will work – you know it will.

No matter what your 2021/2022 school year looks like, Apex Learning is here to ensure your staff and students have the digital resources they need to succeed all the way through May and beyond. To learn more, contact us today to speak with an Apex consultant.

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