Special Report
School & District Management

10 Uncomfortable Truths About U.S. Education

By Elizabeth Rich — January 07, 2020 3 min read

Change. We humans are not hardwired to alter our convictions readily. But all of us know that to evolve in our chosen professions, our thinking, even our relationships, we must reconsider how and why we do what we do. And that’s not easy.

It is in the spirit of change and renewal that we present to you the latest edition of Big Ideas, a collection of essays by 10 Education Week reporters and editors on pressing challenges in education. (The roundup below offers a glimpse at the full report.)

When we began our Big Ideas conversations for 2020, we noticed a theme starting to emerge, a questioning of assumptions: Why do we teach history? Why don’t we teach religion? Why can’t robots replace teachers? Why does the black-white student testing gap never seem to close?


If this line of inquiry is starting to make you feel uncomfortable or provoked, well, that is to be expected. We hope the discomfort you may feel from reading these 10 essays will empower you to change what is not working anymore for you, your classroom, your school, or your district. Many of the explorations in this report don’t lead to tidy conclusions. But they may inspire you to consider what might be standing in your way to disrupt and innovate.

And, as always, let us know what you think. Did this year’s Big Ideas resonate with you? Did any of the Big Ideas prompt you to reconsider your perspective on your work? Connect with us directly by using #K12BigIdeas.

BRIC ARCHIVE

1. The black-white achievement gap is somebody’s fault.

Why don’t black students perform as well as white students on tests? Associate Editor Christina A. Samuels dug into this question and came to a realization: Nobody is blameless. Read more.

BRIC ARCHIVE

2. We’re thinking about math all wrong. And it could hurt our students.

Negative attitudes about math—who is capable and worthy of learning it—are fueling math anxiety, writes Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks. Read more.

BRIC ARCHIVE

3. We need to do a better job of teaching history.

Students know that they have to learn history. But do they know the powerful reasons why? Assistant Editor Andrew Ujifusa lays them out. Read more.

BRIC ARCHIVE

4. Religious texts aren’t supposed to be in the classroom. But maybe they should.

Studying the Old Testament taught Associate Editor Stephen Sawchuk to be intellectually rigorous. But is it really possible to separate the religious text from the religion? Read more.

BRIC ARCHIVE

5. Nobody really knows who’s in charge of schools.

Centuries of fighting over racial justice, federalism, and taxation has left us a tangled web of K-12 governance, writes Staff Writer Daarel Burnette II. Read more.

BRIC ARCHIVE

6. Big tech companies want something from schools. It’s not money.

As Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft make themselves increasingly indispensable in education, teachers are getting worried, says Assistant Editor Alyson Klein. Maybe they should be. Read more.

BRIC ARCHIVE

7. The robots are coming. That could be good news.

Ignoring artificial intelligence won’t keep it out of the classroom, says Assistant Managing Editor Kevin Bushweller. Read more.

8. Local news is struggling. That’s a problem for schools.

BRIC ARCHIVE

Local journalism and education are cornerstones of a functioning democracy. What happens when one crumbles? Staff Writer Evie Blad explores that question. Read more.

BRIC ARCHIVE

9. “Segregation” might be the most fraught term in education. And the most misused.

Loaded or empirical? Incendiary or honest? Unavoidable or misleading? Deputy Managing Editor Mark W. Bomster tackles the confusion surrounding “segregation.” Read more.

BRIC ARCHIVE

10. The school choice movement depends on parents picking high-quality schools. It doesn’t always work out that way.

Parents—like all people—often do not make decisions with the cool, calculated rationality policymakers and academics may expect, writes Staff Writer Arianna Prothero. Read more.

A version of this article appeared in the January 08, 2020 edition of Education Week as Disruptions for a New Decade

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Here to Stay – Pandemic Lessons for EdTech in Future Development
What technology is needed in a post pandemic district? Learn how changes in education will impact development of new technologies.
Content provided by AWS
School & District Management Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Strategies & Tips for Complex Decision-Making
Schools are working through the most disruptive period in the history of modern education, facing a pandemic, economic problems, social justice issues, and rapid technological change all at once. But even after the pandemic ends,
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Education Funding Webinar
From Crisis to Opportunity: How Districts Rebuild to Improve Student Well-Being
K-12 leaders discuss the impact of federal funding, prioritizing holistic student support, and how technology can help.
Content provided by Salesforce.org

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Video Education Week Leadership Symposium: Resource Center
Resource Center for K-12 education’s premier leadership event.
1 min read
School & District Management Cash for Shots? Districts Take New Tacks to Boost Teacher Vaccinations
In order to get more school staff vaccinated, some district leaders are tempting them with raffles, jeans passes, and cash.
8 min read
Illustration of syringe tied to stick
Getty
School & District Management National Teachers' Union President: Schools Must Reopen 5 Days a Week This Fall
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten wants five days a week of in-person school next fall.
4 min read
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, talks during a news conference in front of the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching on Sept. 8, 2020.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, talks during a news conference in front of the Richard R. Green High School of Teaching on Sept. 8, 2020.
Mark Lennihan/AP
School & District Management Principals and Stress: Strategies for Coping in Difficult Times
Running schools in the pandemic has strained leaders in unprecedented ways. Principals share their ideas for how to manage the stress.
6 min read
Illustration of calm woman working at desk
Getty