What Is the Biggest Challenge in Education Today?

It is an honor to introduce ourselves to you as the 2010-11 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellows.

We are all excited to be here at the U.S. Department of Education, working to help create the conditions and structures necessary for success in our schools.  With five Teaching Ambassador Fellows in Washington and ten in schools across the country, our mission is to do all we can to represent teacher and student voices in the dialogue on how to improve opportunities for our students to succeed in our classrooms and in their lives.

As we step through this path of change in education, we ask for your voices, expertise and engagement.  Over the course of the year, we want to know what you need, how we can best serve you and how policy can be guided to both support the work you are doing and change the way we do education.

To kick off this discussion, we ask you:

What is the biggest challenge facing education today?

With great hope for the future of education,
Antero, Edit, Jamal, Jeff, Katie, Laurie, Leah, Linda, Lisa, Nick, Pam, Patrick, Tracey, Stephanie and Steve

To learn more about us, please visit the Teaching Ambassador Fellows web pages.



  2. In my opinion, the biggest challenge in education today is the creation of No Child Left Behind. I have to believe that the people involved in the creation had never sat in a classroom and tried to teach a class of 30 students while one student “who must be in the classroom, can not talk, can not use sign language, drools on all chairs/books/activities, tears up any assignment that is given to him, and literally hits/pokes other students who try to get an education”. I just can not understand this for the life of me! How can a teacher teach under these circumstances?

  3. I have worked in public education for 27 years now. In my opinion there is no one roadblock or problem. There are several problems that work together to hold back students, teachers, and parents.

    Our country has forgotten that education is a right AND a privilege. It is our right to a free education and our choice to make the best of it.

    Yes, students with disabilities, students who do not speak English as their first language, and students from low SES backgrounds must be addressed. Not one person with a whit of sense would argue that point. However, “school” has becomed an entity to itself when it used to be part of our community, part of our daily life.

    School is now a business with profit/loss statements and quality control reports. We determine progress with scores and statistics totally forgetting that we service people, not cars.

    Any automobile may be taken apart, studied, and put back together again with no ill effects on performance or quality. Trying to dissect the learning process of a child is not so simple. Once we remove the process from the child we lose all hope of success.

    It is time for America to come back to what education is really about – people. People that work, learn, and share together.

  4. The biggest challenge in education is finding true teachers and getting decision makers to implement the advice that they give.
    We are in the classroom everyday and really see the strengths and weaknesses our students.

    If we pull together a group of the finest teachers in the nation, have round table discussions and problem solving sessions, then rapidly implement the solutions, we could solve the nations education problems. We need to set national standards and nation policies. Our nation is depending on this next generation to take its place. We still have time to prepare them, but effective and swift actions must take place.

  5. I so agree with everybody but I think the bottom line was said by Ken #4. I am also not originally from this country and is very sad to know that my 2 girls, one 16 years old and 2years old will have and had not testing system that challenge their right site of their brain. I do believe everything starts at home, but, the rest of the hrs of the day I have to work and they are with hopefully an amazing person that love what they do and the educational SYSTEM OF UNITED STATE (one of the most powerful countries in the WORLD?) helps them.
    A Mom.

  6. Cross-posted from CoöpCatalyst.

    David (@dloitz)suggested that Coöp write towards this post and call from the USDOE’s Teaching Ambassador Fellows (TAF). The Fellows have asked teachers, “What is the biggest challenge in education today?”

    The biggest challenge in education today is its myopia and disregard for real-world problem-solving as concretized in our collective and sometimes willful lack of imagination in reforming education outside the tautological feedback loop of standardized testing.

    We are endlessly arguing the merits of standardized tests and how best to evaluate teachers in response to them while insisting that the tests represent standards that represent minimum competencies on the delivery of which teachers should be judged. Where to begin? All the excellent, innovative, global rhetoric in the world won’t move teachers past teaching to the test if the test is the job. See KIPP, TFA.

    Our leaders, duly enjoined by our pundits, can’t seem to achieve escape velocity from this debate or the standardized testing mindset. It’ as if “the best and brightest” a)can’t imagine other solutions to the Achievement Gap and the social justice issues it stands for, b)can’t imagine schools being any different than they are today, or c)have some kind of stake in preserving the status quo. Regardless, it doesn’t stop reformers from demanding that teachers change to better teach to tests while the system remains stagnant. Look at the stalled ESEA reauthorization, all the i3 commentary, and the passage of the Edujobs bill. There is nothing in any of those federal initiatives that actually reforms our system of public education to be more like the systems of the countries we’re chasing on the charts. What if we stopped chasing the charts? What if we assessed like the Irish? What if we taught like the Australians? What if we considered the societal cost and impact on innovation our stubborn pursuit of test prep? Do we want to have similar cultures and governance as the countries beating us in math (see page 7), for example, just to be the country best at math scores, or can we come up with an educational program that posits some kind of authentic, innovative end for math scores augmented by American ingenuity, which is largely absent in American schools?

    I share a lot of common beliefs about community-based education and relevant curriculum with test apologists.

    However, it’s the height of defeatism to say we can’t school our children differently or provide justice through differentiated, student-centered education while all around us the world continues creating new cures, products, and travesties. Standardized testing isn’t the end of American ingenuity unless we stick with it until it becomes the end of American ingenuity.

    Here are five questions we should be exploring in pursuit of authentic #edreform outside of testing:

    Why aren’t most public schools democratic and student-centered in curriculum, assessment, instruction, schedule, and structure, and why aren’t we scaling and researching models that are?
    Why are we measuring students, teachers, and schools on work done at desks and inside classrooms?
    What is excellent learning, how does it relate to community stewardship, and how do we help students achieve the former in pursuit of the latter?
    How does what we’re doing compare to what we know about child development, learning, and human motivation?
    In the near future, what is an ethically responsible balance of free and proprietary blended learning, embedded assessment, community-based project-based learning, school funding, and teacher to student ratio?

    If we can’t find the time and political will to engage in conversations based on questions like those, then it will be cold comfort when we sit back and chortle ruefully at the curriculum and test vendors bearing the blame for the Achievement Gap when there are no teachers left (at least not as we understand them) and vendors are caught in the bind of being tasked with eliminating the Achievement Gap while trying to make a buck off tests that perpetuate the Achievement Gap as a means to perpetuate the tests as a means to perpetuate revenue. I mean, you know, with apologies, how can they be expected to make a valid test if someone doesn’t fail? Can I be a valid teacher if someone doesn’t fail? Riddle me that, Stat-man.

    We don’t really expect to have all our schools succeeding anyway, right?

    Teachers: we own that collective and willful lack of imagination, too. As a professional body, what do we have to offer that any better than test scores? What have we organized to do? Are we accomplishing our mission? Is that the same thing as doing/protecting our job?

    How would you answer any of those questions? What are you doing differently this year?

  7. I think the biggest problem in education today in our state (LOUISIANA) has the thought that charter schools are the answer to todays problems. Public schools have had it’s share of problems because of the very things that are being given to the charter schools. Better teacher pay, more resources, more professional development and so on.

    I would like to see better accountability in the area of special education and more money given to the efforts of educating adults to get their GED or high school diploma. Education is important, and to all of the welfare receivers…. MAKE them educate themselves as a requirment for getting a free check and food.

    I know it easier to educate a child than it is to fix a man…But at some point students parents must be held accountable for creating a better future for our country!

  8. MAJOR PROBLEM – “As I research the poor performing schools and programs designed to save them, I notice that they have something in common. I call it “The Missing Link – Parent Involvement”. Why do we need parent involvement? It’s their kid! Our influence is limited and the time the student is with us we should be spent concentrating on instructions. We will never solve the problems in education, without making parents accountable.”

    In response to the “LIFELONGUSA” post – I think that you hit the nail on the head on many aspects…except, you fail to recognize, as most of the government educators do, that parents have the right and responsibility to direct the upbringing and education of their children – NOT the government or its employees. It is the employees/teachers/administrators, who should be held accountable to the parents, not the other way around. I’m not telling you this off the cuff, but with sound directives by the United States Constitution and the United States Supreme Court – something that is ignored by those who take an OATH to uphold it, such as CONGRESS, the PRESIDENT of the United States, and the JUDICIAL branch in many instances.
    WOOWOo, wait a minute! Aren’t these adults the products of the American education system? While individuals complain about the ignorance and parenting skills of the parents – REMEMBER – the parents are ALSO products of the failing education system.

  9. The biggest challenge in education today is everyone taking responsibility for his or her part. The teachers to teach, the parents for making sure that the kid has good values and is caught, and the government, to ensure that there is education in the first place.

  10. Ken, I have a comment about “testing” and Spanish Speaking students who have only been in the country for one year. If they entered legally, there are methods provided in schools to assist them with the language barriers. If they entered illegally, they should not be in school, but their parents with their children should be returned to their own country. If is it “against the law” for them to be here, then the law should be enforced, not pampered.

    Biggest problem in education is “pampering” and teaching children and adults that they have “an excuse” for not learning! All can learn and achieve when required to and motivated to, but not if they are taught that “they have a problem.” There should be more funding for Alternative Schools for students who “do not fit” in the regular schools systems. Not all kids learn that way and we have schools starting early in the day when some kids learn better later in the day. Why not require teachers to understand learning styles and set proper discipline regulations for schools.

  11. In my opinion the biggest challenge in education is a combination of many things. First schools mainly public schools need more funding to obtain the materials and teachers to successfully educate the students. second, there needs to be a better support system between administrators, teachers, and parents to maximize the potential of students learning in the class room. parents need to communicate and cooperate with the teachers to ensure the child is learning to the best of their abilities both at home and in school. Teachers should be able to voice their concerns with administrators with out fear of negative repercussions. It does not matter how experienced a teacher is, without a support system their job can not be done correctly. Third, i feel test and exams should not consist of a majority of multiple choice questions. I am a 2010 High school graduate, and when taking my final exams i realized that multiple choice was a majority of my regents exams. In order to truly know what the students have learned we need to create exams where the knowledge has to come from are heads. If a student can look at a question and just know the answer then they have truly learned something. Multiple choice for most students turns into a guessing game, in and some cases results in a student passing by luck. I feel there are many problems that need to be addressed in the education system, and it may differ in each state but being in the new york state education system i have have witnessed many flaws and in order to maximize the learning potential of the students they must be fixed.

  12. Playing catch-up is the greatest challenge. What ends up happening in inner city school districts like mine (the Syracuse City School District) is that each year, the teachers have to stop short of their planned lessons because their students are so ill prepared. They must first teach basic lessons that should have already been covered. Because it takes so long to make up for lost time, the teachers never get a chance to cover their own curriculum. So the cycle repeats as students move from one grade to the next, being subjected to the impossible game of catch-up.

    Progress is never made no matter which part of the spectrum you look at. The bright kids get watered down lessons that do not challenge their intellect. The rebels are given attention but many end up dropping out for various reasons (socioeconomic forces are often the cause, but it does not help that so many of these students are behind on their studies.) Despite differences, dropouts and graduates alike end up as unfinished products of the American public school system. They leave without ever having had a complete, basic education.

    Since there is no progress and achievement after dropping out or graduating, those who could not learn fundamental skills are forced learn on their own, outside of school walls and without teaching instruction. It is ironic then, that our tax dollars go into “supporting” the most basic education for students who will walk away without ever fully receiving it.

  13. Well, Antero, Edit, Jamal, Jeff, Katie, Laurie, Leah, Linda, Lisa, Nick, Pam, Patrick, Tracey, Stephanie and Steve I’ll tell you what the biggest challenge facing education today is: the institutionalized unequal distribution of money. I’ve been a special education teacher for 13 years now and many of the problems that other people have mentioned are pretty annoying. The standardized tests are shallow and reward mediocrity, special education is overburdened and underfunded, and buried in paperwork. Teaching is an extremely difficult profession, and most of the discussion on “rewarding” good teachers focuses on a simplistic measure like end of the year test scores, without acknowledging that this is unfair to teachers working in more challenging settings. It would make some slight sense to measure students at the beginning and end of the year and reward teachers who have made a significant measurable difference. Even then, limited information can be drawn draw about the ability of a child or the value of teacher based on a number given on a single multiple-choice test. We are preparing children to become responsible adults, not stamping out widgets on an assembly line. Quality control in different factories in the same industry is done with objective measures of output, but that is fair because you can assume that the equipment, workers, resources and materials are pretty much the same in different locations. It is completely different in education. Teaching is not an easy job under any circumstance, but it is easier when you have students who do not come to school hungry, and you have parent support, money, materials and small classes. Yet, we fund schools based on local property taxes so that the children who need the most, get the least. Currently I’m working in a setting for educating students in residential facilities outside of their home school district and I feel like every single problem that I had with the public education system up until now has been a tiny annoyance.
    Don’t get me wrong: I love the job and the students and staff are great. But the chasm between rich and poor in this country has never been so starkly apparent. The result is a disparity in education, employment opportunities and earnings that continues for generations. If you could equalize the funding for schools, you would begin to be able to assure everyone the free and appropriate public education that the law says they are entitled to receive. If any of you get a break in your busy year of being DOE Fellows and would like to make a real difference in the lives of some kids, you could stop by and visit and see if you can help me get some more materials for my children. I’ve been pretty successful finding supplies and textbooks, but science lab equipment and technology is extremely expensive. There is probably some wealthy school division somewhere that is throwing out things that we need. It is too bad there isn’t a centralized way of matching people who can give, with people who have needs.

  14. The biggest challenge in education today as ever before is grasping concepts of students’ interest. Many educators operate with the notion that students are in school to be taught; therefore, students should not have a choice in what they learn. Students want to excel and they can; students want to learn, but not what or how another person want them to learn. Student can even excel by learning what or how another person want them to learn, but not as much as having a choice in what and how they learn.
    No one truly helps a student to achieve satisfaction or/and to excel in an area the student represents no advantage. Nevertheless, many educators often justify pushing students into learning tasks in which the students represent no advantage and/or interest; and they do these, hoping the students will latter catch up with the advantages educators represent for the students.
    Zuleika, a recent high school graduate, almost “hit the nail in the head” when s/he states that the biggest challenge in education today is lack of “student empowerment and choice in learning.” I say Zuleika almost “hit the nail in the head” because…..

  15. The biggest challenge to higher education, is competition from for-profit colleges, which drain valuable resources and 2-3 times the cost to the student, often leaving the student heavily in debt with no degree. The solution is to put a cap on loans and grants to students attending these colleges, at a figure not greater than the state average.

  16. I am 65 years old and still enjoying the art of teaching. I have developed many new skills as a teacher over the years, but I have never changed my role as the teacher, reinforcing my students roles and requiring parents to do their part. I have taught parenting classes because a lot of our parents are helpless (watch the “Super Nanny Show” on television. Most of the homes have both parents, above average incomes and their kids are out of control.) The United States is,also, full of first generation American parents from over thirty different countries who are pre-occupied with learning English, how to live in America and many did not attend school in their own country.

  17. In my opinion one of the most important areas of the education systems for children is the health system. Children are not eating healthy and need to be educated in this area. Jamie Oliver has revamped the British health system at school all across the UK.

  18. Over coming the false perception that students from inner city, low income, minority communities are not going to perform as well as students from suburban, middle and upper-income households. Low expectations produce low performance. From the top down, somehow, districts have to overcome that before any gains will be made, no matter how much money, technology, and curriculum and reform you throw at schools. If the administration, staff and faculty only expect so much they will only get so much. It’s that simple.

  19. The biggest challenge in education today is the impact the adoption of the new Common Core Standards will/should have on classroom instruction. This is a huge deal and yet I see virtually nothing about these new standards on your website, nor the website of the California Department of Education (cde,ca,gov). The State Board of Education just approved the adoption of these new standards so they can continue to compete for ‘Race to the Top’ funding, so critical to all states during this budget recession. I have spoken with district superintendents who barely know this process is even taking place.
    These standards call for radically new approaches to classroom instruction, but there seems to be no plans for any staff development. How can administrators be expected to observe and evaluate teachers in light of these new standards if there is no concerted effort to roll out staff development?

  20. I believe the because elementary and middle school teachers are not supported and given adequate resources, the failure of children to be prepared and master the content follows them throughout their school life.
    Nothing is as it used to be when it comes to teaching and learning. Parents, teachers, students and administrators are all falling short of the mark for a myriad of reasons and circumstances.
    because we cannot regulate parenting, we must be sure that students are reaching and achieving substantial benchmarks by the first, third and fifth grades.
    Too often in high school, the students are performing far below average and most of the standards are a challenge. We are not teaching at grade level. Special needs students try to play the role but are ill-served by the inclusion model and self-contained settings are limited.
    Sadly, education has become a game of smoke and mirrors; most often because all of the stakeholders do not want to squarely face the issues that interfere with the adequate education of a majority of our students.
    It is my hope that teaching will once again be a most noble profession, and teachers professionally compensated for their daily acts of altruism.

  21. The biggest challenges in education today are:
    A. Most teachers can’t reach, don’t understand or are afraid of the children they are trying to teach. I have a discussion with new teachers entitled “The Brady Bunch is not in your classroom.” When I entered the teaching profession in 1967, class size 30 (15 A/B students, 10 C students and 5 D/F students) In 2010, 40 students in a class (10 A/B students 10 C students and 20 D/F students). Students, parents and teachers seem to have accepted failure. If you don’t know the car you can’t fix it. Many of these D/F students are socially promoted to the next grade, that is why so many student go to college unprepared. These students have not faced failure and think that they are doing just fine. If a child can’t pass any grade, they should not be sent to the next grade. They can’t do the work and become disruptive in class.
    B. Every one is trying to do the job of parents who should be raising and supporting their own children. This includes discipline, setting goals and preparing them to be responsible, caring, productive adults. Problems like inappropriate dress, profanity, bullying, fighting, vandalism, poor attendance, refusing to do homework, sexting, defiance of school rules should be handled by parents.
    C. Today’s parents grew up with television (read “The Plug In Drug”) and their children are growing up in a digital world (check out the video “Digital Nation”). There is nothing wrong with progress such as technology, but nothing can replace human interaction, character building, nutrition and physical activity which are suffering because we have allowed our children to use sophisticated equipment and spend hours in the digital world most of the time without some kind of supervision.
    D. Children have not changed. They always need rules, discipline, positive role models and someone in their lives who care enough to help them be all that they can be. If you don’t take care of grass it turns into weeds.
    E. College is not the only choice after graduation from high school. Students can choose the military, vocational school or full time employment. Most schools are not preparing students for other choices.
    F. This generation is smart too! If they can use computers, cell phones, video games and ipods they can learn anything and I tell my students just that. Many of them speak more than one language. Languages which are needed in the United States to help provide services to our international communities. In a one room school house with multiple grades and one teacher, students learned to read and write. This has been a challenge today with all of the other things our talented teachers are faced with.
    G. If we had programs that educate parents about the roles they MUST play in order for THEIR child be successful not only will they improve our schools, but their homes and the community.

    I am 65 years old and still enjoying the art of teaching. I have developed many new skills as a teacher over the years, but I have never changed my role as the teacher, reinforcing my students roles and requiring parents to do their part. I have taught parenting classes because a lot of our parents are helpless (watch the “Super Nanny Show” on television. Most of the homes have both parents, above average incomes and their kids are out of control.) The United States is,also, full of first generation American parents from over thirty different countries who are pre-occupied with learning English, how to live in America and many did not attend school in their own country. They do not know how they can help. As I research the poor performing schools and programs designed to save them, I notice that they have something in common. I call it “The Missing Link – Parent Involvement”. Why do we need parent involvement? It’s their kid! Our influence is limited and the time the student is with us we should be spent concentrating on instructions. We will never solve the problems in education, without making parents accountable. The Educational Dream Team -“Students, Parents, Teachers and Community Leaders” working together. Back in the 60’s, we had a push for everyone to be fit, so we started a National Physical Fitness Movement. Let’s start a National Parents for Education Movement (NPFEM), challenging schools to come up with creative ways to educate parents and children at the same time. Let’s return class to the classroom so that our schools will be safe, academic performance and test scores will improve.
    Finally, more students will graduate from out institutions of higher learning.

  22. The biggest challenge in education continues to be an issue of equity. We see this when we compare/contrast rich suburban school districts with those in located in urban/poverty areas. Attendance rates, four year graduation rates, percent going to college, the effectiveness and quality of the teachers and administrators, scope of curriculum, electives, AP courses, expectations, availability of resources, and after school activites are but some of the examples that highlight these differences.

  23. The biggest challenges in education today are curriculum reform in public schools, funding in higher education and most educational policies are lacking the voice and expertise of educators(teachers,professors)from k-12 and higher education.

  24. The biggest challenge is getting the Federal Government out of the act and using the wealth of the Nation to foster its own ends. Just give all the tax dollars back to the public and eliminate the Department of Education. Test scores have not improved on iota since it was created. America can not afford the continued waste of the tax payers money!

  25. I agree with several of the comments regarding our educational system. Our children’s education is a three-fold problem or concern. We need student, parent and teacher involvement in this process to help the student succeed at an acceptable level at least. First, the parent should encourage the child in reaching their educational goals and develop good study habits at school as well as at home. The teacher should ensure that the child is getting what they need from their teaching or at least be able to appropriately suggest or refer the student witht the permission of the school and parent to some extended learning classes when available. My grandchild has had a failing grade in math due to low test grades all year, she reads well, but due to comprehension, was kept after school for reading. I inqured long before the school year about a summer class for math. The summer math program was full and the Administrative office did not have a copy of the information I faxed to them before the deadline. I agree that it is important that children have an extensive intervention early on when it is noticed that they are struggling in a particular area. I have found that all too often the process is dragged out too long and the child is moving on in the upper grades without the need being properly or continuously addressed. After some basic are covered, I believe a student should have a say in what studies of interest they should pursue. Each student is unique in their own talent.
    John, I hear you loud and clear. Great that you were able to receive a grant. I want to return to school, but when you have been out in the world and lost a job and has responsiblities, you still need a place to stay and bills do not stop because you decided to return to school. Not everyone can do a 24-7 work week and school.
    Thanks all.

  26. Hey Brian, I hear you loud and clear. I am in the same situation as your wife – well-prepared and well-educated, but confronting a job market that does not seem to need my services, at least not at this time. It is tough times for a lot of folks. Some of my friends have been unemployed and underemployed for quite some time. In general I support collective bargaining and unions (in fact I am an active union member at my current job), but I think the teachers unions have to bear some of the blame. Their main goal is to protect their long-term members and retirees, not to provide support and opportunities for new teachers. I hope that more can be done by all concerned parties to create opportunities for educators – judging from the posts here, there is a need for us!

  27. The biggest challenge in education today is pushing the students to study English,math and science.We need to reform the books,the method of teaching and testing.There is only one way to improve education in our county.English math test for 8th gradesand English,math,physics,and chemistry exit examinations for 12th grades.The tests must be different for each student.All teachers in middle and high schools must have a bachelor degree.Every other way is wrong and it is going to cost a lot for the future of the county.Nothing is missing in our county to do that.

  28. This morning Secy’ Duncan reported that the United States now ranks 12th internationally with number of students who are completing college. Clearly as John notes in his post, funding is a key issue affecting the entire system from teacher retention to funding college tuition. The pending legislation being voted upon in the House today is proposing measures with assistance for college loans and a more direct application process via the federal gov’t.

    I agree with many other comments and posts here about the many significant issues. I feel the over-riding problem is the lack of professional status for education. In this midterm-election year I hear very little from candidates about educational issues.

    In the “race to the top” more authentic proposals need to be forthcoming with professionalism. this needs to happen not only top down but in our local communities.

  29. Every post I read has nothing to do with my #1 dilema, “funding, I am grateful to have been approved thru FAFSA, and all its sub loans, to pay for full tuition to persue a bachelors degree in Criminal Justice, I feel as I browse these loans, that being a divorced 51 year old white male with no dependants but self, no living parents, zero assets no bank account or anything of the sort, again, I want to reiterate my graditude for the grants, but after there paid and I am being congradulated on becoming a full time student striving for my BS, I ask will there be any funds to assist with my living expenses, so I can devote full time towards school without the fear of eviction , computer blow up, or your every day needs, I do not want or expect a hand out I live very frugal and would pay back accordingly, I am surprised I am not coming across more people in my shoes, .Since I have never applied for any student loans or any loans for that matter, Please direct me in the proper direction, I was informed by a financial aid officer to contact the United Way, they claimed that I should be eligable for living expenses hands down.I am at my witts end…..please help

    ?Thank you

  30. Surely the biggest challenge in education circles today is correcting the issues of authority. We are having authority issues all the way from Washington down to the families with school children. Everyone seems to point the finger at the other person for our educational system failures.

    Then Washington seems to think they can just write a new law to govern the way we think. Well, the real news is that while all the blame-shifting goes on, the system is really falling apart!

    Do you really believe that we are headed in the right direction?

    The family unit is also falling apart due to the fact that there is no authority for the parents over the children. Again, Washington has taken the authority of the parent away because they think the parent doesn’t know how to raise their own children. This leads to taking away the teacher’s authority because they too are unable to teach properly without the consent of Washington.

    When government controls everything you do and say, then where does creativity go? Out the window!

    Government control is not what our educational system needs. Give the authority to be creative back to the people!


  31. The biggest challenge in education today is to defeat the top-down, authoritarian wresting of public education from the domain of educators, turning it over to business interests whose agenda is to union-bust and privatize, rather than actually raise the quality of education for all. If you want to help create the conditions and structures necessary for success in our schools, start by banning high-stakes testing. Then focus your efforts on addressing the actual sources of under-performance.

    Paul Karrer said it well this week:

    “Our schools can never be improved if we ignore the disadvantage associated with poverty that affects children’s ability to learn. Children who grow up in poverty need extra resources including preschool and medical care. They need small classes, Their families need additional support (social skills, job skills, jobs, housing). Students need a curriculum rich in literature, history and science, all of which are trivialized or being diminished because of the need for students to score highly on language arts and math tests. ”

  32. The biggest problem facing education today is the public distrust of anything provided by the government. Free Public Education is the only education for most Americans, and if we stop providing that in order to fund experimental schools, most students will suffer. Public school teachers and administrators must work together to show the good things being done in schools, which far outweigh the bad things. The public’s perception of schools is now being shaped by idealogues with money to spare who want to experiment in schools and also by the complaints teachers and administrators make about shortcomings. It is easy to find problems with anything, schools included, in this less than perfect world, but only educators can show us the good things happening in schools, and if they want to save public schools, they’d better start sharing those good things.

  33. Correction to students being consulted. A group of students have been asked about how to get youth into college, according to one of your posts. Other than that, students are not involved in making changes to their education.

  34. As a recently graduated k-12 student, I feel the biggest challenge in education is having public schools seriously consider student choice in education. For the most part, youth have very little say in what subjects they can learn or spend time on. When it comes to education, everyone is racing to do things for students, asking for freedom for teachers, administrations, and everyone but the students, the people and citizens that this system is supposed to be serving. Not once have students been seriously considered during during the adoption of all these policies for any say. Students cannot evaluate their teachers or schools. If they have a specific academic interest they want to spend the majority of their time on, they must yield to the assignments that are mandatory. In addition to this, students are stifled by academic and intellectual standardization, as well as an overload of external motivation. Our brains, abilities, and personalities are much too diverse to have people expected to know the same things on the same level at the same age. Even if with the new standards are just guidelines and markers, standardization is counterproductive to innovation. External motivation will also burn out more so than personal intrinsic motivation to learn.
    So, what is the biggest challenge? Student empowerment and choice in learning.
    Then comes:
    Lack of diverse approaches to schooling. Lack of EQUALITY for all members of a school, especially students, in making decisions in response to diverse environments, skills, communities, and situations. Top-down authoritarian environments in which students and teachers have no say, and in which students are just expected to sit down and learn with no opportunity for input in choices made about their learning, is the total opposite of democracy.

  35. The biggest obstacle in education is the issue that isn’t being addressed – parental involvement in the child’s life outside of school and it’s affects out student achievement in school. Everyone wants to point the fingers about what is wrong with our education system, when we should be asking what is wrong with our societal and socio-economic system, where socio-economics largely determine student outcomes. This has been researched by James Coleman as far back as the 1960s.

    More often than not, what you start out with and what you do with a child in the classroom is largely determined by how involved their parents are in supporting their children’s education. When people compare us to Asian countries, they forget that the responsibility for “learning” (not teaching) there is primarily on the student and family, whereas in the U.S., the responsibility for learning is on the education system. This sense of entitlement that educators must make us learn must be changed to how can I take personal responsibility for my learning. Almost all systems that we’ve come up with to date in the U.S. are punitive to educators where educators bear all the accountability and responsibility for student outcomes, and the families almost bear none. Until we do reverse this sense of entitlement and disrespect for our eduction system, most attempts at raising the achievement of our most neediest students will be futile. Why should anyone respect educators anymore when all they hear is about how terribly we’ve failed our children?

  36. I think that there is a big problem in education. My wife has been looking for almost two years fo a teaching job. After graduating with a masters degree in education and the most organized person I know can’t find a teaching poison in all of northern California. Everybody want to hire most of the positions to teachers with experence and that has left my wife at the bottom of the list. She has filled out over two hundred applications and has had some very promising interviews. It is coming close to that time that she might end up having to go into something else. I am very frustrated with how the the hardest person I know who has made it a full time position looking for a teaching job. We are desperate and broke

  37. ken,so in your opinion the goals are apparently put on paper not as an assistive tool but as security against lawsuits.by the way my son is turning 16 and since 8th grade which left him with no education for 3 months than ayear of solace in 9th grade leading to 7 suspensions one after the other till we took him out of the dept of education nyc and enrolled with kaplan omline. funny thing although he was enrolled with an accredited school they refused to take him of their register,collecting his monies,until we moved to sc 1/10.im not frustrated anymore,it is what is we can only go fwd and fortunately his hs has someone working with him whose resume includes being trained under dr pagan.it may take longer and possibly might not happpen …what is worse is finding out that after they graduate their disabilities play arole in permenant employment.are their answers for children with aspergers i do not know.should i not voice my concern.the way i see it is that if i do not then it happened for nothing.

  38. Victoria,

    I cannot imagine how frustrating it is. I don’t think the schools have enough man power to assist students with disabilities. I know all of my students that have IEPs, but the reality is that I teach 15 students with IEPs. I simply do not have the time to focus on each individual student’s goals let alone the 120 other general education students I have. With that many special ed students, I almost need to plan entirely new lessons.

    The government either needs to give us the manpower so we have help with differentiating instructing OR rethink the policy of inclusion.

  39. another abysmal disservice i recently got knowledge of is the lack of unions in sc.the teachers are frightened to go to work.what kind of environment does that provide the child.i believe even with unions the the teachers are too afraid to speak up regarding injustices in the school.

  40. my son was diagnosed in third grade with aspergers .although the elementary level seemed to be the difference between night and day from private school. once in intermedite school,each time i went to parent/teacher conferences the teacher didnt even know the child had an IEP.WHO IS ACCOUNTABLE AT THAT POINT?i understand your frustration in losing time from your students however what is the point of even writing any goals if the person most influencial in the child;s education is handed a blank sheet of paper.my child intelligence level and iq is above average yet his teachers were trained to interact with aspegers.i applaud every teacher out there.the bueracracy needs to be eliminated to ensure suceess.

  41. I agree that our biggest problem in our schools today is having the man power and coverage to teach all our students. I am a special education teacher and have worked hard to have my students meet the general curriculumn and be a part of the regular classroom as much as possible, but without the support of extra personnel to assist these students into transitioning back how is it possible. I also believe that if we see students struggles in the first two years, we need to get interventions in place ASAP and develop the foundation needed for success.

  42. The biggest obstacle facing education today…..
    Each state has far to many issues to face. It is up to each state, district and individual school to prioritize the biggest issue and to recognize our task is to educate all children in the most engaging curriculum and with the best teachers possible. We cannot do anything about poverty, language issue, lack of funding, government in education, special education which is underfunded and over burdened in paperwork, we cannot do anything about lack of diversity in the teaching force and administration and the many hoops it takes to jump through each of the steps. But what we can control is how we react each and every time we are faced with an obstacle which the public does not begin to understand and the Government will NEVER UNDERSTAND!!
    To all of my fellow educators I know we each have ridiculous task and obstacles to overcome but to begin naming them would lead us each to infinity.

    The easier question to answer is not to answer what is the biggest obstacle but instead to ask>>>
    What are you going to do to overcome the obstacles?

  43. Through the many opportunities we have had to engage in educational conferences and symposiums, and what we have derived from market research, it would seem that one of the largest obstacles will be converting from a teacher-centric classroom, where content and direction is placed on the shoulders of an increasingly overwhelmed staff, to that of a student model, where they are both free to experiment with different learning strategies and responsible for creating their own content around curriculum-based projects and assignments.

  44. Thanks for putting this online and giving people an opportunity to discuss things. From my perspective, the biggest challenge appears to be how to create good schools that provide a good education for kids and good jobs for educators in a period of shrinking budgets, political attacks on teachers, and growing numbers of at-risk students. I would also like to mention something that has not been coming up in recent debates. The real challenge happens in the earlier grades. If a kid gets to middle or high school without being able to write a decent sentence or do some basic math, his/her academic future is not very bright. I am not saying that he/she is not a good person, or is doomed to a life of poverty et cetera. But his chances of going to college and succeeding there are not good. What can be done to ensure that more of our young people can reach the higher grades with basic skills at an appropriate level? Why isn’t there some federal money being made available for programs to address this (e.g. after school classes, in school tutoring, to name a couple of things)?

  45. Certainly one of the biggest challenges in education today is creating school environments in which students can learn and teachers can teach. There appears to be more consensus today that the quality of the classroom teacher is key, but less agreement on what conditions and supports are necessary for that quality teaching to occur, and occur consistently, across classrooms and schools. It is more than “sticking the right teacher in the classroom.” While I know from history, research, and experience that quality teaching can take place even under very harsh circumstances, our goal is to create quality educational conditions for all our children. Therefore, we need to look and listen more closely to what high quality teachers actually need to get the job done.

    Looking forward to your tenure and thoughtful representation of teachers across the nation.

  46. Victoria,

    I agree with your comments on special education. As a general education teacher, I think special education has created a bureaucratic, inefficient mess. For example, I need to sit through various IEP meetings which last for more than an hour. This is an hour where I am outside of my class. Some poor unfortunate soul has to take control of my inclusion classes, which contain thrity students, while I am gone. We have pushed “inclusion” into schools, but have not received the resources necessary to make it work. The amount of meetings, paperwork, and data entry has taken away a massive amount of teachers’ planning time as well.

    How can we ensure a fair and rigorous education for special education students, but rid ourselves of the inefficient bureaucracy?

  47. The biggest challenge is ensuring the high achievement of all facets of our student population, which has become very diverse. This is something that No Child Left Behind sought to achieve. However, it has become clear that the goals set forth in this law are not realistic. Teachers and schools have worked extremely hard in their attempt to raise achievement. Is it fair to require spanish speaking students that have lived in the country for one year to show proficiency on a test written in English? Is it fair to hold schools hostage when students with learning disabilites do not perform well on tests? Is it fair to claim that teachers in low-income, highly diverse schools are not doing their jobs because students did not meet standard on the state exam? Teachers in schools in affluent neighborhoods with a lot of parent involvment do not have to worry about these kinds of things, yet they get paid the same amount of money with less stress.

    Moreover, why is all of the accountability placed on teachers and schools? At what point do the students and parents take part of the responsibility? This is what Obama spoke to when he addressed American students early in the past school year.

    Unfair and unrealistic laws set forth by the federal government and a lack of student/parent accountability are two of the biggest challenges in education today.

  48. That challenge would be to effectively use the research we have in student learning, teacher development and educational leadership and aggressively improve that body of research base to improve our address of current and future problems (to be precise, a problem is a failure to attain educational learning goals in some aspect of the population of people and/or curriculum domains)

  49. The biggest challenge in education is moving from inauthentic assessments with multiple choice questions and bubble sheets to an authentic type of assessment that truly measures what students learn.

  50. the biggest challenge in education is revamping special education without lawsuits which is undermining funding in education.i am a parent of a child with aspergers.through cases such as the manhatten beach,ca school district we need to better educate how to avoid lawsuits.

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