Education: Top Challenges
The top challenges facing the K-12 education sector in the US are school safety, standardized testing and government funding.
- School safety was highlighted as a top challenge facing the K through 12 education sector in the US across the education trades Education Week, Trade Schools, Teach for America and District Administration, among other publications.
- Specifically, the approximately 300 school shootings in K through 12 schools in US since 2013 have resulted in many tragic deaths, mounting debate over how to address this crisis and new actions across education systems to keep students safe.
- Notably, following the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, an estimated one million students led protests across the country related to school safety, while a poll highlighted that 57% of American teenagers were worried about the possibility of gun violence at their schools.
- As a result, many schools across the US now practice Active Shooter Drills several times a year, and K through 12 schools are increasingly embracing social-emotional learning as an opportunity to both prevent and address the fallout from the series of recent high-profile mass shootings in schools.
- Also, debate continues to mount, from local communities all the way to the White House, over other potential measures to improve school safety, such as teachers carrying concealed weapons.
- Another top issue facing K through 12 education in America, per education trades including Trade Schools and District Administration, is standardized testing.
- Although the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which came into effect in 2016, removed the most challenging aspects of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) regulation, schools, many educators and public officials still suggest that standardized testing is "one of the biggest problems" facing K through 12 education in the US.
- Specifically, critics maintain that ongoing pressure for high standardized test scores continues to create a teach-to-the-test mentality, that standardized testing is still overemphasized in policy and funding decisions, and that other equally important but non-tested subjects receive less attention and resources.
- However, Starr Sackstein, the Director of Humanities at West Hempstead Union Free School District, suggests that standardized testing may finally become less important as higher education begins to de-emphasize such scores.
- Meanwhile, W. James Popham, the Professor Emeritus at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies of UCLA, maintains that the growing resistance to standardized testing will not result in significant change until the federal government provides different guidance to states.
- Meanwhile, government funding was also highlighted as a top challenge facing the K through 12 education sector in the US across education trades Education Week, Trade Schools and Teach For America, among other publications.
- Although school funding is somewhat of a perennial topic in America, 2018 was a year of new energy and activism among teachers.
- Specifically, concerns over sufficient and equitable funding across US K through 12 schools appears to be only growing as an issue.
- This is in part due to the fact that more than 90% of the funding for public K through 12 schools comes from state and local governments, and most states reduced such funding streams following the Great Recession.
- Although some schools have seen funding increases within the current economic environment, many states are still providing less money for K through 12 education than before the Great Recession.
- For example, 29 states are still spending less per K through 12 student than they did a decade prior to the 2017-2018 academic year.
- Ultimately, the reduction in government funding has translated to fewer teachers and support staff at schools, a reduction in programs, lower overall school resources and, in some instances, teacher strikes.
Please note, for the purpose of this analysis, we defined the top challenges facing the K through 12 education sector in the United States as those mentioned most frequently by experts in the education sector, including education trade publications and organizations. Additionally, the specific experts and publications noted throughout this analysis not only raised these issues within their literature, but also highlighted each of these challenges within articles summarizing the most important or critical issues facing the education sector in the US.
Please also note, we included an article published by Education Week which highlighted the eight top issues facing K through 12 education in 2018. Although this article was behind a paywall, it was available to the public for free through incognito mode with Google. As such, we have provided a link to the article itself, as well as a screen shot of the content available through incognito mode.