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
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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.

See Also

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→


Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.
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.
Curriculum Webinar
STEM Fusion: Empowering K-12 Education through Interdisciplinary Integration
Join our webinar to learn how integrating STEM with other subjects can revolutionize K-12 education & prepare students for the future.
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

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 Opinion 'I Don't Know What to Do': Facing Today's Education Leadership Challenges
Here are three concrete steps for getting ahead of controversies and creating a supportive learning environment for every student.
Jennifer Perry Cheatham & Bonnie Lo
5 min read
A leader encourages a large group of people across a bridge made of pencils. Proactive leadership.
Raul Arias for Education Week
School & District Management Who Trains the Trainers in the ‘Science of Reading?’
How three districts help their principals learn, practice, and sustain the “science of reading” implementation in their schools.
5 min read
First grader Geniss Gibbs practices reading skills at Eastern Elementary School in Washington, N.C., on May 23, 2022.
First grader Geniss Gibbs practices reading skills at Eastern Elementary School in Washington, N.C., on May 23, 2022.
Kate Medley for Education Week
School & District Management Photos Six Years After Parkland Tragedy, Crews Demolish a Painful Reminder
The school building in Florida where a gunman killed 17 people is being pulled down. Victims' families have toured the site with lawmakers to push for change.
4 min read
Students, teachers, victims' families and passersby watch, Friday, June 14, 2024, as crews start the demolition of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building where 17 people died in the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. Officials plan to complete the weeks-long project before the school's 3,300 students return in August from summer vacation.
Students, teachers, and victims' families are among those watching on June 14, 2024, as crews start the demolition of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School building in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people died in the 2018 mass shooting. Officials plan to complete the weeks-long project before students return from summer vacation.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
School & District Management Download 'Science of Reading' Learning Walks: 4 Things for Principals to Look For
An instructional guide for school leaders to help implement shifts in reading practices.
1 min read
Photograph of a Black male teacher in the classroom with clipboard observing elementary students.