Special Report
School & District Management

5 Transformative Ideas to Address Education’s Biggest Challenges

Change is hard, but we must do it anyway
By Elizabeth Rich — September 06, 2022 2 min read
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America’s educators, you are certainly living in interesting times.

In some ways, this fall feels more hopeful than the last two, as the pandemic seems to be posing less of a threat. For the most part, your students arrived for the start of the school year in person with smiles on their faces, butterflies in their stomachs, and expectations of a fresh start. And, no doubt, you’re right there with them.

But you’re also facing challenges, and we’d all be fooling ourselves not to acknowledge them.

Beyond the day-to-day stressors that COVID has posed to you and your school community, deep existential questions have emerged. Questions that get to the core of our values, how we see ourselves, our role in our communities and the country in which we live.

Just released scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress paint a dismal academic picture with historic declines. Gunfire is now the leading cause of death among children. Staff and students are grieving the loss of family and friends. And we are fighting over what can be read—or even discussed—in the classroom. It’s not easy.

Every year, with our Big Ideas report, we at Education Week seek to provide new ways to look at some of education’s biggest challenges.

Big Ideas 2022 starts by looking at equity (though it’s inscribed into federal law, we can’t agree on what it is); we dig into DEI work (it’s a critical step, but not the only one schools need to take); we address student mental health (it’s not just a convenient talking point for politicians); we listen to teachers (they want change). And, finally, we take on binary thinking in an essay that will change how you think about everything else you read in this special report and—we hope—beyond that.

Our goal with the essays that follow is to light a path forward for you, offer perspectives that could reposition how you think about your work and public education. And we took our cues from you: In surveys conducted by the EdWeek Research Center, you told us how you see COVID’s impact on education—and it’s significant. If the pandemic has taught us only one thing, it’s that change is hard, but we must do it anyway.

As always, reach out to us at #K12BigIdeas on Twitter to share your thoughts on this year’s Big Ideas.

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1. When Did Equity Become a ‘Trigger’ Word?

Education equity may be inscribed in federal law, but that doesn’t mean everyone agrees on what it means. Read more.

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2. The Key to More Equitable Schools? Deep Commitment

Schools are making progress on their DEI goals, but nothing short of an education overhaul will achieve equity. Read more.

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3. We Talk a Lot About Student Mental Health. We Need More Action

The pandemic has brought new attention to student mental health concerns. Schools need sustained help to respond. Read more.

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4. Teachers Are Ready for Systemic Change. Are Schools?

The pandemic underscored the need for school change. Leaders must be ready to take on that work. Read more.

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5. Why Can’t We Talk to Each Other Anymore?

Binary thinking is tearing the K-12 world apart. It doesn’t have to be this way. Read more.

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