From health and safety concerns to standardized testing, there are many complex issues in education today. While these issues may originate outside the classroom, teachers can be part of solutions that keep the focus on their students.
Following is a look at five top issues in education and how teachers can help.
Students’ Health and Wellness
It is an understatement to say that the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenging time for students and teachers. According to a McKinsey report, by the end of the 2020–2021 school year, elementary school students were, on average, five months behind in math and four months behind in reading. However, the struggles do not stop with learning gaps.
Writing for We Are Teachers, Meghan Mathis points to a growing need to support students’ mental health and wellness. Teachers cannot take the place of mental health professionals. But the consistency that comes with daily classroom routines and activities can go a long way in promoting the safety and security that many children need.
Integrating social-emotional learning into the classroom can also help. As CASEL explains in its “Guide to Schoolwide SEL,” supporting belonging and emotional safety, in turn, allows students to focus on learning, a win-win.
The Standardized Test Debate
Teachers are familiar with the arguments over standardized testing. That debate reached new heights in 2021 as teachers and families called for a stop to standardized testing during one of the most stressful years for students.
Standardized tests have been in place for over 100 years, according to the National Education Association (NEA). Teachers may not have control over state and federal testing requirements. But they are in the best position to understand what these tests mean for their students.
As every teacher knows, assessments used appropriately can improve instruction and enhance learning.
For example, Youngstown State University’s online Master of Science in Education – Teacher Education – Curriculum and Instruction – Teacher Leader online program prepares teachers to make informed decisions about their teaching practices. Coursework focuses on analyzing assessment data to inform decisions about how best to improve instruction and student performance.
Bullying in School
Bullying statistics explain why this problem is becoming an “epidemic.” One in five students ages 12 to 18 report being bullied at school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Over 41% of those students thought the bullying would happen again.
The long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on students will take time to understand. But Child Trends reports that one outcome may have been a decrease in bullying, as schools shifted to remote learning. Being able to make a difference in the lives of children is often the motivation to take up teaching. Educators are now in the unique position of being able to support the decline of bullying.
The Class Size Issue
Of the many factors that influence student outcomes, class size deserves special consideration. In 2019–2020 student-teacher ratios ranged from 10.4 students per teacher (Vermont) to 22.7 (Utah), according to the NEA.
Most would agree that smaller class sizes are beneficial. But many teachers must deal with the reality of larger class sizes by finding ways to help students succeed. Writing for We Are Teachers, Elizabeth Mulvahill stresses the value of routines, small group instruction and other “sanity-saving tips.”
Teaching in a Climate of Controversy
Creating a respectful environment for conversations about current events promotes a positive classroom and school climate.
Teaching argument and persuasion also supports learning standards in English language arts and other disciplines. Examples include:
- Producing evidence-based arguments to support claims
- Analyzing a speaker’s argument and claims
- Understanding and evaluating claims in media
- Identifying author’s point of view and bias in nonfiction/research (to assess the quality of information)
Flexibility and adaptability are important qualities for teachers, as every day brings something new and challenging. Taking a reflective, problem-solving approach to these issues helps keep the focus on teaching and learning. Youngstown State’s online master’s program can prepare you to become a teacher who is ready to lead the way in improving and enhancing learning environments for students.