I love to write about what are the top issues in education because it differs depending on where you live, if you are a parent or teacher, and how much money is involved. There is no one list, but let’s take a look at some of the top ideas.
Broadband access to the internet so that all students can connect from all spots in America seems to be a very top issue to solve! During the pandemic, we found out that when students were home, access to the internet reflected their neighborhood’s ability to connect them to the internet and then to their school. Surprisingly, this is still an issue countrywide.
I would say that universal pre-K might be number two as my research and other’s research continues to show that starting your life with a quality pre-K enhances your chances of graduating and becoming a fully functioning adult in our society. In some neighborhoods, Kindergarten-age children cannot recognize any number of any letter. In fully funded pre-K settings, all children can be given access to a great start in their life of learning.
Social Emotional Learning
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is just as important as cognitive academic learning and should be paired with all activities at school. When students drop out of learning it most often can be tied to feeling something is not working for them. Student feelings can be addressed right at the beginning of any school day through adult check-in activities such as morning meeting, advisory meetings, and/or counseling.
Assessment is the top issue I work on because it determines the quality of teaching and learning in our schools. What gets tested gets taught. From a research point of view, though, the accuracy of standardized tests has been called into question because performance assessments do such a better job of setting rigorous goals for what students know and can do. When the assessment looks like a worthy goal for the instruction, students are much more likely to take it seriously, study for it, and perform on it.
Teaching has to be improved through better recruitment of who will teach, better work conditions under which they teach and a real effort to attract a more diverse, better qualified workforce. Those teachers need to be constructing a culturally responsive curriculum and they need the skill set to deliver that curriculum to a more diverse student population. The teacher is the most important factor in student success.
Funding is a top priority recognized in the Build Back Better legislation and the passage of this act would help build capacity for school districts to accomplish the priorities listed above. Wrapped up in funding is the need to address equity and access. Just as broadband became an access issue, the funding of broadband is similar to the need for student access to a quality teacher and a quality curriculum for every student. Funding can make the difference between a tepid roll-out of a program and a fully implemented program. When we get the funding right, we help all students benefit from a fully realized program in education.