The Rise of Artificial Intelligence and the Implications for School Districts

Key Points

  • AI is now easier to access and more powerful than ever – it’s time to start learning how to use it and how to spot it. 

  • The gap young people face today isn’t a digital divide, it’s a possibility divide–relationships with adults that invite them into work that matters.

Students in a 3-D printing club plan their next project.

In testimony at a school board meeting last week, I made three points about the implications of AI:  

Artificial Intelligence Has Profound Implications for Work and Learning 

The rise of artificial intelligence, particularly generative AI, marks a new era of work and learning. After 40 years of rules-based calculation, AI models “learn” patterns and make predictions without being explicitly programmed for each specific scenario. This enables them to handle complex, ambiguous problems difficult to solve with traditional programming and serve as reasoning and creation engines with a natural language interface. Generative AI models produce text, code, and images on demand, they automate complex processes and are beginning to serve as role-based agents.

  • In Co-Intelligence: Living and Working with AI, Warton professor Ethan Mollick Mollick urges us to engage with AI as co-workers, co-teachers, and coaches. He assesses its profound impact on business and education and shows what it means to think and work together with smart machines, and why it’s imperative that we master that skill. 
  • The leading model, now awkwardly called ChatGPT-4o, got better, faster, and cheaper last week. Everyone is getting access to a powerful tutor and programs (GPTs) for automating creative tasks. ChatGPT’s multimodal capabilities allow it to “reason across voice, text, and vision”
  • LearnLM is Google’s new family of models designed to make learning experiences more personal and engaging including a Learning Coach and Q&A function on YouTube. 
  • Jack Clark on Google DeepMind video-to-game capability: Everything will be a kind of seed for a new controllable pocket-universe. All of us will be free to descend into an ever-expanding fractal universe of realities, all of us exploring the latent spaces of our own imaginations. No one is prepared for this nor the metaphysical shock it will create.

AI Requires Reconsideration of Goals, Experiences, and Signals

The rise of AI requires educational institutions (particularly secondary and postsecondary) to reconsider learning goals, learning experiences, and signaling systems (progress reporting, transcripts, credentials, and learner records). 

  • In Education for the Age of AI, Charles Fadel said, “Adaptability is the ultimate differentiator with AI.” He urged a “modern emphasis” on imagination, decision-making, dialog, leadership, risk-taking, and resourcefulness.  
  • School systems nationwide express new priorities as a Learner Profile or Portrait of a Graduate (see The Portrait Model). Changing expectations, experiences, and signals requires a community conversation and updated agreements.   
  • Mastery Transcript Consortium became a subsidiary of ETS last week paving the way for skills transcripts at scale

Short and Long-Term Implications of AI 

Given the significant opportunities and challenges of AI, school systems leaders urgently need to develop guidance on the use of AI. Several nonprofits have compiled useful toolkits including Teach AI. AI literacy for teachers and digital literacy for students is an urgent priority.

The rise of AI offers the greatest value-creation opportunity in history. Existing connectivity, free access to frontier models, and natural language interface make AI a particularly compelling contribution opportunity for young people. The gap young people face today isn’t a digital divide, it’s a possibility divide–relationships with adults that invite them into work that matters (we call it difference making) with smart tools. Inclusive K-12 leadership today means inviting all learners into experiences and environments alive with possibility.  

AI in Education

For the past decade, we’ve been covering advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, sounding the alarm that it’s not if it’s when and it’s not when… it’s now. This publication highlights trends and developments in artificial intelligence that are shaping teaching and learning.

View Publication

GPT Drafted AI Testimony

After my testimony, I prompted ChatGPT-4o to draft a similar statement. It’s pretty good…

Testimony Before the Public School Board on the Implications of AI and Proposed Next Steps


Good evening, members of the board, educators, parents, and students. I am here today to discuss the implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our public school system and to propose actionable steps to harness its potential while addressing its challenges.

The Transformative Potential of AI in Education:

AI has the potential to revolutionize education by offering personalized learning experiences, automating administrative tasks, and providing insightful data analytics. These capabilities can lead to improved educational outcomes and more efficient school operations. However, it is crucial that we navigate this transformation thoughtfully to maximize benefits and mitigate risks.

1. Personalized Learning:

  • Adaptive Learning Platforms: AI can create adaptive learning environments that tailor educational content to individual students’ needs. By analyzing students’ performance and learning styles, AI systems can adjust the difficulty of lessons and provide targeted resources, enhancing engagement and understanding.
  • Early Intervention: AI-powered tools can identify learning gaps and predict which students might need additional support, enabling timely intervention before issues become critical.

2. Administrative Efficiency:

  • Automating Routine Tasks: AI can handle repetitive administrative tasks such as grading, attendance tracking, and scheduling, freeing up teachers to focus more on instruction and student interaction.
  • Resource Management: AI can optimize resource allocation, ensuring that schools make the best use of their limited resources, whether it’s managing classroom supplies or planning bus routes.
  • Enhanced Data Analytics: Performance Monitoring:** AI can provide real-time analytics on student performance, helping educators make data-driven decisions. This could include tracking progress over time, comparing outcomes across different demographics, and identifying effective teaching strategies.
  • Improving Curricula: Data insights can inform curriculum development, ensuring that the material remains relevant and effective.
  • Addressing the Challenges: While the benefits of AI are promising, there are significant challenges that we must address to ensure its ethical and equitable implementation.

3. Data Privacy and Security:

  • Protecting Student Data: With the integration of AI, large amounts of student data are collected and processed. It is imperative to implement robust data protection measures to safeguard this information against breaches and misuse.
  • Transparency: Parents, students, and educators need to understand how data is being used. Clear communication about data policies and AI processes is essential.

4. Equity and Access:

  • Addressing the Digital Divide:** Ensuring that all students have equal access to AI tools is crucial. This includes providing necessary hardware, reliable internet access, and training on how to use these technologies effectively.
  • Avoiding Bias: AI systems can inadvertently perpetuate biases present in the data they are trained on. It is important to continually audit AI algorithms for bias and to strive for fair and inclusive AI practices.

3. Teacher Training and Support:

  • Professional Development:** Educators need comprehensive training to effectively integrate AI tools into their teaching. Ongoing professional development opportunities should be provided to keep teachers up-to-date with the latest advancements and best practices.
  • Collaborative Approach:** Teachers should be involved in the development and implementation of AI tools, ensuring that these technologies support their instructional strategies and classroom needs.

Proposed Next Steps:

To harness the potential of AI while addressing its challenges, I propose the following steps:

1. Establish an AI Task Force: Form a dedicated task force comprising educators, administrators, parents, students, and AI experts. This task force will be responsible for overseeing the integration of AI in our schools, ensuring it aligns with our educational goals and ethical standards.

2. Develop a Comprehensive AI Policy: Create a district-wide AI policy that addresses data privacy, security, equity, and ethical considerations. This policy should be developed in consultation with all stakeholders and reviewed regularly to adapt to new developments.

3. Invest in Infrastructure and Training: Allocate funding to upgrade technological infrastructure, ensuring all schools have the necessary tools and connectivity. Additionally, invest in professional development programs to equip teachers with the skills to effectively use AI in their classrooms.

4. Pilot Programs and Continuous Evaluation: Implement pilot programs in selected schools to test AI applications in real-world settings. These pilots should be closely monitored and evaluated, with feedback from teachers and students guiding further deployment.

5. Promote Digital Literacy: Incorporate digital literacy into the curriculum, teaching students about AI, its applications, and its implications. This will empower them to use AI responsibly and critically assess its impact on their lives.

6. Foster Community Engagement: Engage the wider community through workshops, seminars, and public forums to raise awareness about AI in education. This will help build trust and ensure that the community is informed and involved in the decision-making process.


AI has the potential to significantly enhance our educational system, providing personalized learning experiences, improving administrative efficiency, and offering valuable data insights. However, we must proceed with caution, addressing the challenges of data privacy, equity, and bias, and ensuring that our educators are well-equipped to use these tools effectively.

By establishing a clear policy framework, investing in infrastructure and training, and engaging with all stakeholders, we can create an educational environment where AI supports and enhances learning while safeguarding the rights and interests of our students and educators.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to working together to create a future-ready educational system that leverages the power of AI responsibly and equitably.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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