Special Report

The 10 Education Issues Everybody Should Be Talking About

By Elizabeth Rich — January 08, 2019 4 min read
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What issues have the potential to define—or redefine—education in the year ahead? Is there a next “big thing” that could shift the K-12 experience or conversation?

These were the questions Education Week set out to answer in this second annual “10 Big Ideas in Education” report.

You can read about last year’s ideas here. In 2019, though, things are different.

This year, we asked Education Week reporters to read the tea leaves and analyze what was happening in classrooms, school districts, and legislatures across the country. What insights could reporters offer practitioners for the year ahead?

Some of the ideas here are speculative. Some are warning shots, others more optimistic. But all 10 of them here have one thing in common: They share a sense of urgency.

Accompanied by compelling illustrations and outside perspectives from leading researchers, advocates, and practitioners, this year’s Big Ideas might make you uncomfortable, or seem improbable. The goal was to provoke and empower you as you consider them.

Let us know what you think, and what big ideas matter to your classroom, school, or district. Tweet your comments with #K12BigIdeas.

No. 1: Kids are right. School is boring.


Out-of-school learning is often more meaningful than anything that happens in a classroom, writes Kevin Bushweller, the Executive Editor of EdWeek Market Brief. His essay tackling the relevance gap is accompanied by a Q&A with advice on nurturing, rather than stifling students’ natural curiosity. Read more.

No. 2: Teachers have trust issues. And it’s no wonder why.


Many teachers may have lost faith in the system, says Andrew Ujifusa, but they haven’t lost hope. The Assistant Editor unpacks this year’s outbreak of teacher activism. And read an account from a disaffected educator on how he built a coalition of his own. Read more.

No. 3: Special education is broken.


Forty years since students with disabilities were legally guaranteed a public school education, many still don’t receive the education they deserve, writes Associate Editor Christina A. Samuels. Delve into her argument and hear from a disability civil rights pioneer on how to create an equitable path for students. Read more.

No. 4: Schools are embracing bilingualism, but only for some students.


Staff Writer Corey Mitchell explains the inclusion problem at the heart of bilingual education. His essay includes a perspective from a researcher on dismantling elite bilingualism. Read more.

No. 5: A world without annual testing may be closer than you think.


There’s agreement that we have a dysfunctional standardized-testing system in the United States, Associate Editor Stephen Sawchuk writes. But killing it would come with some serious tradeoffs. Sawchuk’s musing on the alternatives to annual tests is accompanied by an argument for more rigorous classroom assignments by a teacher-practice expert. Read more.

No. 6: There are lessons to be learned from the educational experiences of black students in military families.


Drawing on his personal experience growing up in an Air Force family, Staff Writer Daarel Burnette II highlights emerging research on military-connected students. Learn more about his findings and hear from two researchers on what a new ESSA mandate means for these students. Read more.

No. 7: School segregation is not an intractable American problem.


Racial and economic segregation remains deeply entrenched in American schools. Staff Writer Denisa R. Superville considers the six steps one district is taking to change that. Her analysis is accompanied by an essay from the president of the American Educational Research Association on what is perpetuating education inequality. Read more.

No. 8: Consent doesn’t just belong in sex ed. class. It needs to start a lot earlier.


Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks looked at the research on teaching consent and found schools and families do way too little, way too late. Her report is partnered with a researcher’s practical guide to developmentally appropriate consent education. Read more.

No. 9: Education has an innovation problem.


Are education leaders spending too much time chasing the latest tech trends to maintain what they have? Staff Writer Benjamin Herold explores the innovation trap. Two technologists offer three tips for putting maintenance front and center in school management. Read more.

No. 10: There are two powerful forces changing college admissions.


Some colleges are rewriting the admissions script for potential students. Senior Contributing Writer Catherine Gewertz surveys this changing college admissions landscape. Her insights are accompanied by one teacher’s advice for navigating underserved students through the college application process. Read more.

Wait, there’s more.

Want to know what educators really think about innovation? A new Education Week Research Center survey delves into what’s behind the common buzzword for teachers, principals, and district leaders. Take a look at the survey results.

A version of this article appeared in the January 09, 2019 edition of Education Week as What’s on the Horizon for 2019?


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