Special Report
School & District Management

10 Ways to Tackle Education’s Urgent Challenges

By Elizabeth Rich — September 14, 2021 2 min read
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To America’s resilient educators:

Take a moment to reflect on your many accomplishments during the pandemic, as well as the challenges you have faced.

You’ve supported your teams, your students, your school families and communities, all while balancing your own lives. In spite of every obstacle, you pushed through because that’s what you do. Every day.

And then, this spring, the sun seemed to shine a bit brighter. The safe and reliable vaccines that were slowing the spread of the virus forecasted a return to a normal-ish school year ahead. But COVID-19 had another plan, and its name was the Delta variant.

So here we are. And it’s complicated.

Conceptual Image of schools preparing for the pandemic

The cover of this year’s Big Ideas report from Education Week and the 10 essays inside reflect this moment and the constellation of emotions we know you’re experiencing: hope, excitement, grief, urgency, trepidation, and a deep sense of purpose.

In the report, we ask hard questions about education’s big challenges and offer some solutions. Keep scrolling for a roundup of these challenges and some new ways to think about them.

The report also includes results from an exclusive survey on educator stress, what you did well during the pandemic, and more.

Please connect with us on social media by using #K12BigIdeas or by emailing bigideas@educationweek.org. May the year ahead be a safe and fruitful one for you.

1. Schools are doing too much

Conceptual Illustration

We’re asking schools to accomplish more than what their funding allows and we’re asking their employees to do far more than they’ve been trained to do. Read more.


2. Student homelessness

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The pandemic has only made student homelessness situation more volatile. Schools don’t have to go it alone. Read more.


3. Racism in schools

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Born and raised in India, reporter Eesha Pendharkar isn’t convinced that America’s anti-racist efforts are enough to make students of color feel like they belong. Read more.


4. Teacher mental health

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The pandemic has put teachers through the wringer. Administrators must think about their educators’ well-being differently. Read more.


5. Educator grief

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Faced with so many loses stemming from the pandemic, what can be done to help teachers manage their own grief? Read more.


6. The well-being of school leaders

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By overlooking the well-being of their school leaders, districts could limit how much their schools can flourish. Read more.


7. Remote learning

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Educators in schools who were technologically prepared for the pandemic say the remote-learning emergency has provided new opportunities to explore better ways to connect with students and adapt instruction. Read more.


8. Setting students up for success

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Educators know a lot more about students’ home learning environments than before the pandemic. How might schools build on that awareness and use it to improve their future work? Read more.


9. Parent engagement

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When school went remote, families got a better sense of what their children were learning. It’s something schools can build on, if they can make key cultural shifts. Read more.


10. Knowing your purpose

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We can’t build resilient schools until we agree on what education’s core role should be. And right now, we don’t agree. Read more.

A version of this article appeared in the September 15, 2021 edition of Education Week as Editor’s Note

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