The Condition of Education: 5 Facts You Should Know
By understanding some key factors impacting education today, teachers can adapt their teaching strategies so their students can better learn.
We’ve entered a new age of education in the United States. From the COVID-19 pandemic to growing wealth inequality, from distance learning to difficult (but essential) conversations about race and justice, teachers and students alike face unprecedented challenges inside and outside of the classroom.
Whether you’re an experienced educator—or are hoping to become a teacher—understanding these challenges is essential for creating more inclusive spaces and better learning experiences for students. And better learning experiences lead to better outcomes, which are especially important in the early childhood, elementary, and high school education settings.
Why? According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the median annual earnings for 25- to 34-year-olds who have not completed high school are the lowest among all levels of educational attainment.1 Preschool, kindergarten, and elementary school teachers therefore play a vital role in preparing their students for ongoing success in school and in life. Beyond teaching foundational academic skills such as reading and math, these professionals also facilitate social and emotional learning, which can help students progress further in their education and make positive gains in their personal, economic, and social well-being.2
Want to know more? Here are five key facts about the condition of education today—and how you can use them to become a more effective teacher.
- Distance learning is here to stay.
The coronavirus pandemic has shown that in-person school simply doesn’t work well for every student—and K–12 school districts around the country are rushing to adapt to new demand for permanent online education options.3 In fact, one in five districts surveyed by the RAND Corporation were considering, had already adopted, or were planning to adopt a virtual school or fully online alternative post-pandemic.4 Whether teaching in-person, remotely, or in combination, kindergarten, elementary, and high school teachers who are knowledgeable and practiced in using online tools and teaching strategies to engage and motivate students will continue to be in demand.
- Racial and ethnic diversity is on the rise.
Among students enrolled in public schools between fall 2009 and fall 2018, the percentages of those who are Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and/or two or more races increased, while the percentage of students who are white decreased.5 These changing demographics challenge old teaching strategies and present exciting opportunities for forward-thinking educators to foster culturally inclusive classrooms and teach culturally inclusive curricula so that every student can succeed.
- More students are English language learners (ELLs) than ever before.
Across the United States, the percentage of ELL students enrolled in public schools has steadily increased.6 In fall 2018, 10.2% (or 5 million students) were ELLs versus 9.2% (or 4.5 million students) in fall 2010. The most prevalent home languages among these students, in order, are Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese; further, more ELL students are enrolled in lower grades than upper ones.6 What does this mean for kindergarten and elementary school teachers? For starters, engaging in their own professional development can help them identify and integrate new teaching strategies into their classrooms—such as complementing vocal instruction with visual tools—that can better support ELLs in achieving their academic requirements.
- Math and reading could use improvement.
According to National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, reading performance among 4th and 8th graders has dropped, while math performance has effectively stagnated.7,8 A variety of factors—including students’ economic, racial, and language backgrounds, among others—influence these results, but the good news is that achievement gaps between white and Black students, and white and Hispanic students, have narrowed over the years. K–12 educators, and especially those in the lower grades, therefore have a tremendous opportunity to excite and engage their students in these critical subjects by employing innovative and inclusive approaches to teaching.
- Teachers who learn more, are better prepared to meet today’s challenges.
Higher educational attainment for teachers is about learning from other educators, staying at the forefront of the profession, and remaining actively engaged in the field they’re passionate about. Earning an education degree can also broaden opportunities for skilled educators, allowing them to make an even greater impact.
Want to Make an Even Bigger Difference in the Classroom?
If you’re interested in becoming a teacher—or want to sharpen your existing skill set—consider earning an online teaching degree from Walden University’s CAEP-accredited Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership. There, you’ll learn from P–12 practitioners and thought leaders with the working insights to help you overcome key challenges facing your classroom, district, and field.
Would you like to become a teacher and learn to be effective in online and hybrid teaching environments? In the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) — Elementary Education online degree program, you’ll engage in realistic virtual simulations; learn about effective planning, instruction, and assessment; and learn elementary school teaching strategies based on the latest educational research.
If you wish to prepare for licensure at the bachelor’s level and want to learn about building more inclusive learning spaces, consider Walden’s BS in Elementary Education (Teacher Licensure) program. This elementary education degree can help you understand the ways cultural influences impact learning, and how teachers can better address cultural diversity in the classroom.
Existing educators interested in strengthening their skills in teaching math might consider the Graduate Certificate in Mathematics K–6 or Graduate Certificate in Mathematics 5–8 programs. And whether you are earning a teaching certificate or an education degree online, you can continue working in the classroom while you gain new skills you can immediately apply to your students.
No matter what your teaching career goals are, you can choose from a variety of education degrees at Walden that empower you to be a catalyst for positive change.
Walden University is an accredited institution that offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral education degree programs online. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.
Walden University’s Richard W. Riley College of Education and Leadership is accredited based on the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) Standards through June 2026. This accreditation covers specific Walden initial teacher and advanced educator preparation programs, including the BS in Elementary Education, Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) – Special Education, MS in Education (MSEd) – Educational Leadership and Administration specialization, and EdS in Educational Leadership and Administration. The MAT-SPED, MSEd-ELA, and EdS-ELA programs were reviewed by Specialized Professional Associations (SPAs), which define content-area standards for programs, and achieved national recognition.
CAEP promotes excellence in educator preparation through quality assurance and continuous improvement. Walden’s College of Education and Leadership has earned national accreditation by demonstrating excellence in the areas of content and pedagogy, clinical experiences, selectivity, program impact, and capacity for continuous improvement. CAEP is a Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)-recognized national accreditor for educator preparation.
Walden is approved by the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) to offer a program leading to a Minnesota Tier 3 license in Elementary Education. All candidates must pass the required Minnesota Teacher Licensure Exams (MTLEs) in order to complete the program. Candidates seeking licensure in Minnesota are responsible for completing any other Minnesota requirements beyond Walden’s state-approved program. The Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) is solely responsible for reviewing applications and issuing licenses.
Individuals interested in licensure in states other than Minnesota may qualify by virtue of completing a state-approved educator preparation program; however, individuals must review their state’s regulations to ensure the program meets all requirements, paying particular attention to any requirements specific to out-of-state program completers. Individuals who reside in certain states may be ineligible to enroll in this program. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide guidance on licensure questions; however, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand and comply with all state licensure requirements. Walden makes no representation or guarantee that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain state licensure.
Prospective Alabama students: State authorization to provide a program related to the preparation of teachers or other P–12 school/ system personnel does not indicate eligibility for an Alabama professional educator or professional leadership certificate. Applicants who complete an educator preparation program at a non-Alabama institution must apply for an Alabama professional educator or professional leadership certificate through the Alabama Certificate Reciprocity Approach. Current requirements may be found at www.alsde.edu.
These programs do not lead to a state endorsement, certification, or licensure. Walden makes no representation, warranty, guarantee, or commitment that successful completion of the program or coursework for graduate credit within this program will permit a graduate to obtain state certification or licensure.
The graduate program and coursework within the program in which you are enrolling may be accepted by many states toward upgrading or renewing a license or obtaining a salary increase (depending on state or district policy). Teachers are advised to contact their individual school districts as to whether this program may qualify for salary advancement. Walden enrollment specialists can provide guidance on program requirements; however, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand and comply with all state and school district requirements.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.