School & District Management

5 Big Challenges Facing K-12 Education Today—And Ideas for Tackling Them

By Elizabeth Rich — September 06, 2023 2 min read
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Big Ideas is Education Week’s annual special report that brings the expertise of our newsroom to bear on the challenges educators are facing in classrooms, schools, and districts.

In the report, EdWeek reporters ask hard questions about K-12 education’s biggest issues and offer insights based on their extensive coverage and expertise.

The goal is to question the status quo and explore opportunities to help build a better, more just learning environment for all students.

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Illustration of fragmented view of issues facing educators in k12 public schools
Traci Debarko for Education Week

In the 2023 edition, our newsroom sought to dig deeper into new and persistent challenges. Our reporters consider some of the big questions facing the field: Why is teacher pay so stubbornly stalled? What should reading instruction look like? How do we integrate—or even think about—AI? What does it mean for parents to be involved in the decisionmaking around classroom curriculum? And, perhaps the most existential, what does it mean for schools to be “public”?

The reported essays below tackle these vexing and pressing questions. We hope they offer fodder for robust discussions.

To see how your fellow educator peers are feeling about a number of these issues, we invite you to explore the EdWeek Research Center’s survey of more than 1,000 teachers and school and district leaders.

Please connect with us on social media by using #K12BigIdeas or by emailing

Stylized illustration of a school bus arriving at a public school split in half with a darker side of the image

1. What Does It Actually Mean for Schools to Be Public?

Over years of covering school finance, Mark Lieberman keep running up against one nagging question: Does the way we pay for public schools inherently contradict what we understand the goal of public education to be? Read more →

Illustration of contemporary teacher looking at a line-up of mostly female teachers through the history of public education in the United States.

2. Public Schools Rely on Underpaid Female Labor. It’s Not Sustainable

School districts are still operating largely as if the labor market for women hasn’t changed in the last half century, writes Alyson Klein. Read more →

Education Week Big Idea Protest 082023

3. Parents’ Rights Groups Have Mobilized. What Does It Mean for Students?

Libby Stanford has been covering the parents’ rights groups that have led the charge to limit teaching about race, sexuality, and gender. In her essay, she explores what happens to students who miss out on that instruction. Read more→

Illustration of a solitary figure contemplating two contrasting schools of thought represented by large books stacked horizontally and vertically.

4. To Move Past the Reading Wars, We Must Understand Where They Started

When it comes to reading instruction, we keep having the same fights over and over again, writes Sarah Schwartz. That’s because, she says, we have a fundamental divide about what reading is and how to study it. Read more→

Illustration of stylized teacher student relationship with AI represented between them as layered screens.

5. No, AI Won’t Destroy Education. But We Should Be Skeptical

Lauraine Langreo makes the case for using AI to benefit teaching and learning while being aware of its potential downsides. Read more→


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