The EdWeek Research Center heard this summer from more than 1,000 educators in a nationally representative survey on their ideas about whether the pandemic transformed public education. Remarkably, 95 percent of respondents saw the pandemic as inciting some kind of change—and half of them said that the pandemic was transformative. (For a more in-depth look at this, see my colleague Madeline Will’s Big Ideas reported essay on how teachers view the pandemic’s impact on education.)
But the devil’s in the details: Respondents were clear about what they feel is standing in the way of major transformation. Aside from funding issues, 42 percent of educators said that either state, local, or federal officials and state, local, or federal policy and laws are among the biggest obstacles to change.
When it comes to the lasting impact of the pandemic 10 years down the line, educators care most about the human dimension of schooling: Almost a third want to see more attention paid to student well-being—and that includes student mental health. One in 5 said they would like to see less attention paid to standardized testing.
And who or what is the biggest force for change or transformation when it comes to education? Teachers, 35 percent said. One out of 10 respondents said it was administrators, and 13 percent cited funding. And even though survey respondents believe policymakers and their laws are obstacles to change, only 16 percent think policymakers’ efforts could be transformative.
What does it say about the field that only 1 percent of educators think that elected federal officials could bring about education transformation? At the very least, it tells us that educators believe agency for change rests in their own hands, provided they have the support—at every level—to do their jobs.
A version of this article appeared in the September 13, 2023 edition of Education Week as What It Will Take to Transform Public Education