Teaching Profession Photos

2022’s 10 Biggest Education Stories, in Photos

By Stacey Decker & Jaclyn Borowski — December 22, 2022 4 min read
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What will educators remember from 2022?

Helping students recover from academic setbacks? Feeling the strain of staff shortages? Dealing with restrictions on classroom topics and prescriptions for reading? Grieving for the lives lost in Uvalde? Watching students champion causes ... or vote for the first time?

These were some of the major themes and milestones in 2022, a daunting year for those working in America’s schools.

Take a look back at the year’s 10 major education stories—in photos.

Staffing Shortages

New Mexico Army National Guard specialist Michael Stockwell kneels while helping Alamogordo High School freshman Aiden Cruz with a geology assignment, at Alamogordo High School, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, in Alamogordo, N.M. Dozens of National Guard Army and Air Force troops in New Mexico have been stepping in for an emergency unlike others they have responded to before: the shortage of teachers and school staff members that have tested the ability of schools nationwide to continue operating during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Staff Shortages Are Bringing Schools to the Breaking Point.” That was the headline on a January story published in Education Week, at a time when COVID variants were sidelining educators and even forcing some schools back to remote learning. Throughout the year, schools’ desperation for teachers, substitutes, and bus drivers became especially acute. Even the White House got involved.

Related reading: How One Principal Has Dodged the Staffing Shortage

The Uvalde School Shooting

Kladys Castellón prays during a vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022.

On May 24, a gunman killed 19 students and 2 teachers in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. The agony of the tragedy was felt across the nation, but most especially in the Uvalde community, which had great pride in its school. As details emerged about a faulty law enforcement response to the incident, grief turned to anger and calls for action.

The shooting was one of more than 45 school shootings with injuries or deaths this year.

Related reading: How Much Trauma Can Our Schools Withstand?

Student Activism

Jecholiah Marriott, 17, a junior at Cass Technical High School, leads the March for Our Lives rally through the streets of downtown Detroit, Mich. on June 11, 2022. The rally was to protest the spike in gun violence, especially in schools across the country.

Among those calling for action on gun violence after the Uvalde shooting were students. Young people fought with fervor for a number of causes in 2022. In addition to gun restrictions, they spoke up for transgender rights, reproductive rights, an end to corporal punishment in schools, and action on climate change.

Related reading: A New Generation of Youth Activists Asks a Familiar Question: How Many More Students Must Die?

Science of Reading

First grader Geniss Gibbs practices reading skills at Eastern Elementary School in Washington, N.C., on May 23, 2022.

More than two dozen states are in the midst of an attempt to radically overhaul reading instruction and bring it in line with the research on how young children learn to read. Despite that admirable goal, the movement caused lots of angst for educators in 2022.

Related reading: Why Putting the ‘Science of Reading’ Into Practice Is So Challenging

Learning Recovery

Volunteer tutor Melissa McBerkowitz and Damari White, 10, take part in the new WakeTogether tutoring program designed to help Wake County elementary students recover from pandemic learning loss Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022 at Southeast Raleigh Elementary School.

“The pandemic has smacked American students back to the last century in math and reading achievement.” That’s what Education Week reported in October, when scores on “the nation’s report card” showed historic declines. It was no surprise to educators, who were working hard to make up for gaps in student learning through techniques like acceleration, or for districts that spent big on tutoring programs in 2022.

Related reading: Two Decades of Progress, Nearly Gone: National Math, Reading Scores Hit Historic Lows

Restrictions on Classroom Discussions

Anthony Crawford, history teacher at Millwood Public Schools speaks to students at Millwood High School on April 20, 2022 in Oklahoma City.

A growing number of states enacted bans or restrictions on teaching about “divisive” or “controversial” topics this year. Lawmakers continued their campaign against “critical race theory.” There was also a spate of anti-LTBGQ legislation that impacted teachers, including Florida’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. These moves left some teachers feeling silenced, fearful, and unsupported.

Related reading: A School Openly Discusses Race in a State That Bans It

Book Bans

Amanda Jones, a librarian in Livingston Parish, La., pictured on Sept. 13, 2022. Jones is suing members of a Facebook group who harassed her virtually after she spoke against censorship in a public library meeting. Jones received angry emails and even a death threat from people across the country after she filed the lawsuit.

Speaking of bans ... 2022 saw an expansion of efforts to remove certain books from classrooms and school libraries. Books about LGBTQ characters and people of color were disproportionately challenged. Among those pushing back: authors, teachers, students, and librarians.

Related reading: A School Librarian Pushes Back on Censorship and Gets Death Threats and Online Harassment

Dress Codes

An Alameda High School student poses for photos wearing ripped jeans on the school's campus in Alameda, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018. The relaxed new dress code at public schools in the small city of Alameda, across the bay from San Francisco, is intentionally specific: Midriff-baring shirts are acceptable attire, so are tank tops with spaghetti straps and other once-banned items like micro-mini skirts and short shorts.

The clothing choices and hairstyles of students and teachers received renewed attention this year. States passed laws forbidding race-based hair discrimination in schools. Teachers lamented having to pay to wear jeans. And, more recently, a federal study found school dress codes disproportionately target girls, Black students, and LGBTQ students.

Related reading: School Dress Codes Aren’t Fair to Everyone, Federal Study Finds

The ‘Parents’ Rights’ Push

Protesters gather outside the Moms for Liberty National Summit, July 15, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. Republican groups that sought to get hundreds of “parents’ rights” activists elected to local school boards largely fell short in Tuesday’s elections. The push has been boosted by Republican groups including the 1776 Project PAC, but just a third of its roughly 50 candidates won.

Debates about classroom discussions, “appropriate” materials, and school policies were fueled by demands from some parents to more directly decide what happens inside classrooms. The ambiguous term “parents’ rights” was thrown around often, especially during 2022 midterm election campaigns. “The COVID pandemic awakened parents to how shut out they were from the public education establishment. Now, they will never go back to sleep,” wrote the co-founders of Moms for Liberty, a conservative advocacy group that sought to influence legislation and elections this year, and faced significant pushback.

Related reading: What Do ‘Parents’ Rights’ Mean Legally for Schools, Anyway?

Resilient Educators

Monica Asher takes a selfie with other staff members before a football game on staff appreciation night.

Educators felt the strain of 2022. Teacher job satisfaction hit an all-time low this year, with just 12 percent of U.S. teachers saying they were very satisfied with their jobs. Principal morale was an issue too. Citing stressful working conditions, nearly 40 percent said that they planned to quit in the next three years. But despite the exhausting challenges of 2022, those working in America’s schools showed resolve.

“I don’t want to look back at this moment and regret not meeting it,” said Monica Asher, an Ohio principal. Asher plans to stay put at her school, and is helping her staff stay positive. “The idea that you have the ability to help make somebody’s life better than it would have been if you weren’t there is incredibly rewarding.”

Related reading: Why This Principal Is Staying Put When So Many Want to Quit

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