Must Read Blog August 23, 2023

Is It the End of K-12 Education as We Know It?

Our notion of “school” is being reimagined across the country. Where those models are gaining traction vary, but a good bet is that those states that have established Education Savings Accounts (“ESA”) for families are at the forefront of testing. This is where forces are pushing on the public and private school models with which many of us are most familiar.

Beyond “physical” school models, Generative AI is the latest technology dynamic threatening to whipsaw our expectations of how teaching and learning happen. And grounding all this are the people – our teachers, staff, and administrators – striving to keep the public school system working in many places. For them, our scaffolding and support is likely outdated and insufficient. We offer some thoughts in each of these areas – and how they are related – below.

Four walls of the classroom crack open

What are K-12 districts and schools doing to keep students – and families – engaged? Regardless of the answer, leaders need to have one (or several): families have likely never had more choices for selecting where and how their children pursue learning, and districts are feeling the effects.

As highlighted in Tyton Partners’ School Disrupted 2022, millions of students have left their local public schools for homeschool, private school, and other more innovative options. For those who remain, there is a clear bias towards something new: as Tyton Partners Choose to Learn 2022 revealed, ~50% of parents are “open-minded” towards a new educational path for their child.

In response to these dynamics, K-12 districts must earnestly evaluate the learning models and opportunities they offer to students. None of the models are in and of themselves new – e.g., hybrid learning delivery and attendance models, dual enrollment and early college programs, enhanced access to supplemental online courses, small school environments, career-oriented education options. However, districts must demonstrate a willingness and sustained commitment to reimagining what they offer to families and students. Breaking free from the structures and routines that have seemingly forever defined our K-12 system is well underway.

For example, in Mat Su Central in Alaska, a district-run hybrid model, students can develop an individual learning plan that incorporates any collection of courses at local public school and programs outside of it – all free to the family. And with Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) now offered to parents in thirteen states, innovative alternative school models are flourishing. Families not only have a diverse range of options beyond traditional public schools, but access to funding and other “navigation” resources to explore new programs and school models.

Stay tuned for more insights on parent demand dynamics and alternative learning models for us this fall. We are currently engaged with clients on a multi-year study on ESA adoption and supply/demand dynamics in key states, with an initial focus on Florida and Arizona; we will also share selected findings in Choose to Learn 2023 which will dive deeper into the aspirations and needs parents open and interested in alternatives to current public school scenarios.

Addressing the Generative AI hype

“Generative AI” has emphatically entered the K-12 consciousness as the next big thing, seen as an ever-present accelerant for some businesses, and an existential threat to others. Some suggest it will completely up-end education models as we know them. In reality, it’s a still-nascent technology capability that most companies and organizations are striving to get their bearings on. As a result, we are witnessing a classic K-12 “FUD” moment – i.e., fear, uncertainty, and doubt – catalyzed by the emergence of Generative AI.

We know that AI has catapulted into the collective zeitgeist – and we know teachers are curious, but cautious, about the role it could play in schools. But what do K-12 stakeholders actually expect to change? What are their perceptions, hopes, and fears for how AI can improve the design – and outcomes – across the K-12 sector?

This fall, Tyton will work with a selected number of partners to rigorously evaluates the issues regarding GenAI to separate the near-term hype from the reality of where/ how it will influence and impact the K-12 community. We will capture data and feedback across a broad set of K-12 stakeholders, including district administrators, teachers, students, and suppliers. You can learn more about the initiative here and contact us directly if you are interested in participating.

Investing in people

How do we measure success? GPAs and test scores aren’t going anywhere as core metrics. At the same time, K-12 districts and schools are increasingly prioritizing their people and measures for success here as well. Looking ahead, a pronounced shift in the K-12 community’s focus on student and adult health and well-being – and its tracking and “measurement” – will result in districts leaning on partners in new ways for valuable supports and much-needed interventions.  

Earlier this month, Daybreak Health raised $13M in a Series B to provide mental health teletherapy services, joining a growing list of K-12-focused teletherapy providers (e.g., Presence, eLuma, Hazel Health). As districts continue to contend with pandemic affects, it comes as no surprise that counseling needs are at an all-time high, and models that combine technology and service delivery to reach broader student populations have taken root.

Importantly, we expect to see an expansion of districts’ efforts to account for teachers and administrators’ needs as well. More than half of teachers contemplate leaving the profession, and the traditional substitute teaching model has faced similar pressures. These dynamics require solutions supporting adults’ health and well-being, in conjunction with alternative staffing models, high-quality academic support services, and effective recruitment and retention strategies for existing teachers and staff.

This back-to-school season, we plan to resume our Finding Your Place series, with a broader survey of the state of health and well-being among students and teachers. You can learn more about the initiative here and contact us directly if you are interested in participating.


In the wake of the pandemic, we find ourselves at a critical point in the trajectory of our nation’s K-12 system. While there is much to be gained, there is also much at risk based on the choices we make. Fortunately, more good minds, organizations, and funding are focused on the potential paths forward than ever before. At Tyton, we are actively working to follow the various strands of this activity and investment – stay tuned and thanks for listening.