The hot education topics that dominate the news cycle, social media, and conference breakout sessions aren’t always the most relevant to those in the field. When conversations outside the classroom revolve around the latest ed tech breakthroughs and the pros and cons of ChatGPT, it’s easy to tune out the day-to-day struggles teachers face.

It’s time to identify, understand and discuss the under-the-radar issues that are hindering student success and revisit practices that could help solve four of the most critical. Addressing them now can help improve student outcomes for years to come.

  1. There are learning barriers ed tech cannot break through. When children in historically marginalized and under-resourced communities walk into the classroom, many are already steps behind their peers. For families who struggled to meet basic needs before COVID, the pandemic only exacerbated the difficulties they faced, including homelessness, food insecurity and a lack of affordable child care. Four years later, many children have yet to feel physically and emotionally healthy and safe, which has increased academic disengagement, chronic absenteeism and learning loss, especially in economically challenged areas.
  2. Professional development is failing to address a key factor in student success. Each year, school districts invest millions in professional development. However, most training doesn’t align with teachers’ needs, especially for educators working with English learners and students with disabilities. There’s also little evidence that professional development strongly correlates with student achievement.
  3. Accountability systems aren’t measuring the most important elements of students’ experiences. One notable example comes from early childhood education, where almost every state has its own Quality Rating and Improvement System — and each measures success differently. Some look only at factors related to the learning environment, such as the number of books in a classroom or assurances that safety measures are in place.
  4. Development of critical skills is sacrificed for standardized testing. While there continue to be calls to reform standardized testing, districts are under mounting pressure to demonstrate student progress post-pandemic. Clearly, a focus on math, science and reading is warranted, but educators must also make space for core skills needed for success in school and in life. These include the “Five C” foundational principles: critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration, communication and citizenship. Equipped with these tools, students can think more deeply about their experiences, learn from others and engage in civil discourse with their peers.

Read the full article about barriers to student success by Bridget Hamre at The 74.