- "Leadership Perspectives on Public Education: The Gallup 2018 Survey of K-12 School District Superintendents" shows significant concern among district leaders in regard to preparing students to be engaged citizens, with 74% agreeing or strongly agreeing that doing so presents a challenge, compared to 50% last year.
- Other challenges ranking high on superintendents' radars include recruiting and retaining talented teachers, improving disadvantaged students' academic achievement, and addressing poverty's impact on academics.
- Additionally, 51% expressed "no confidence at all" in the K-12 education policy oversight of the Trump administration. Around 90% see high school graduation rates and student engagement and attitudes as important school effectiveness metrics and 61% see standardized test scores as an important effectiveness metric. Over 70% report partnering with local businesses on career and vocational training, and over 75% say they would participate in a post-graduation recruitment program where large employers offer full-time jobs and higher education opportunities.
Recent years have seen a growing realization that many students are making it through the K-12 education system inadequately prepared for civic participation. This is evident from the way people interact in online forums and shout each other down in face-to-face town hall meetings, as well as in late-night show street interviews that lampoon the general public's inability to answer random questions from a citizenship test or name one member of Congress. As a result, many states are working to strengthen their civics education requirements.
As the National Education Association points out, however, there's more to providing good civics education than simply having students pass an exam based on a U.S. naturalization test. Promoting empathy and compassion through community volunteer work, encouraging critical thinking, and practicing civil debate skills in a variety of tasks and projects are among critical ways to build engaged citizens. Simply put: Like other skill sets, providing opportunities to put what is being learned into action is critical for effective instruction.
Of course, the other concerns listed by superintendents present their own unique challenges — and teacher retention and recruitment remains among the trickiest. A report released this week shows persistent teacher shortages and data from the National Center for Education Statistics examined by Pew recently reinforcing the difficulties of hiring a faculty that accurately reflects student demographics. Just 20% of public elementary and secondary school teachers in the 2015-16 school year were racial and ethnic minorities, compared to 51% of public elementary and secondary school students. And while teachers don't have to have similar racial, ethnic or other backgrounds to their students to make a lasting impact, research has shown that students seeing at least one person in a role model position in their school building can boost their achievement and attainment.